Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Subic Bay trumpeted as mother port

Businessmen and economic experts have proposed that Subic Bay should be developed into a "mother port" to make the country more competitive in the Asia-Pacific region.

The proposal was raised recently by the National Competitiveness Council (NCC) and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) to the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).

Meneleo Carlos, NCC Infrastructure Working Group champion, said that Subic is closer to most major sea lanes, so it would be easy for mother ships used in transshipment to pass by Subic and pick up cargoes for direct delivery to destinations like Europe.

Carlos said the use of the Subic Bay Freeport as mother port will result in faster shipment, lower cost, and more profits and jobs.

"Shipment will be faster," he said, pointing out that cargoes from the country won't have to be transshipped anymore through Hong Kong or Singapore.

Carlos said that NCC is now looking at the possibility of moving more cargo through Subic with the use of 50 to 80 teu barges that will carry cargo from Batangas, Cavite, Manila, and Bataan.

Meanwhile, moving goods between manufacturing centers in the country through water transport could prove to be more economical, provided that adequate systems for handling roll-on, roll-off (RORO) vessels are provided, Carlos added.

The announcement by NCC dovetailed with a call by the PCCI to develop a transshipment and logistics hub spanning the ports of Batangas and Subic, which is connected to the air transportation complex at the Clark Freeport by the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx).

The PCCI said the proposed logistics center is needed to decongest cargo traffic in Manila ports, reduce the cost of doing business, and improve the competitiveness of the Philippines as a business destination.

At the same time, PCCI officials urged President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to expand roll-on, roll-off facilities in the country to reduce wharfage fees to trim transshipment costs for domestic and foreign-bound cargoes.

Similar cost-cutting measures have been endorsed by the NCC, which said that reduced port and shipping charges would make the Philippines more competitive globally.

SBMA, meanwhile, lauded the proposals, saying it reinforces the agency's commitments to modernize the Subic sea port, which has posted a remarkable 26.6 percent growth last year despite the onset of recession.

"The picture of a modern, globally competitive and commercially viable Subic seaport gets clearer," SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza said in reaction to the proposals.

"More and more people realize Subic's potential in catalyzing further growth in the country's maritime logistics industry, and that's great news for the SBMA," he said.

Arreza added that the SBMA has earmarked $215 million to modernize its port and gear up for a greater role as a logistics and marine services hub. The program included the construction of two container terminal with a total capacity of 600,000 teu, and the rehabilitation of several U.S. Navy-built piers that are being turned into specialized ports for passenger and cruise ships, as well as for loading and unloading grains, fertilizers, oil and petroleum products, and other bulk cargoes.

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