Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Friday, February 05, 2010

SBMA pursues cruise firms to make Subic port call

THE Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) is talking to large cruise companies to make the freeport one of its major destinations in the region for next tour season.

Ronnie Yambao, manager for investment processing department at SBMA, said Subic is ready to cater to cruise ships with their facilities and services.

“We have several piers. For instance the Alava pier has a passenger terminal,” Yambao pointed out.

SBMA, he said, is has been in talks with the cruise operators to include the freeport as one of their itineraries. It is targeting cruises for the third quarter of the year or by 2011. This, as most of the tours for this year have already been presold.

“In 2006, we had already an experience in hosting cruise ships. Now we can say that we are ready to become part of the cruise ship itinerary because we have the tourism facilities, cost competitiveness and infrastructure,” Yambao said.

“We hope to have here the Star Cruises, Costa Crociere, and the Royal Carribean by the third quarter of the year. Passengers can have 10 to 12 hours of docking time to enjoy the place,” he said.

For starters, Yambao said they are proposing that Subic becomes part in the cruise liners’ leg from Hong Kong to Vietnam.

Yambao said the Port of Manila can accept cruise liners but there is no passenger terminal building at the South Harbor to service cruise travelers. Disembarking passengers have to walk through bulk cargoes being handled at the facility.

All slots at the Eva Macapagal Super Terminal in South Harbor have been now taken by Aboitiz Transport System Corp., the operator of the SuperFerry.

Yambao noted that cruise passengers can visit the still-to-be-constructed Ayala Mall, which will soon rise on a 7.5-hectare property within the free port. The Ayala Group was granted a 25-year lease contract.

Yambao said, there are also other tourism-related investments in Subic such as Neocove and M Castle, which are owned by the South Korean firms.

“Neocove will develop a golf course and a high-end resort with initial cost of $300 million while M Castle will be pouring in $500 million,” he said.

The country’s lone cruise vessel, the MV 7107, recently promised that it will make Subic Bay as its home dock for the domestic run of its cruise.

The government, however, seized the vessel and put it on the auction block on allegations that its owners did not pay the proper duties and taxes. Written by VG Cabuag / businessmirror.com.ph Reporter

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