Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

ATI to challenge Harbour Centre for Subic port project

STATE-RUN Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) said Asian Terminals Inc. (ATI) has also expressed interest in a joint venture for the development, operation and management of the former US military base’s Naval Supply Depot and a number of wharfs in the area.

In a briefing on Monday night, Armand Arreza, SBMA administrator, told reporters that ATI purchased the terms of reference (TOR) for the joint-venture contract, which apart from the supply depot also covers the Alava, Boton, Bravo and Rivera wharfs.

Last month, ATI secured a P250-million five-year standby loan from Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co. to finance future projects.

The publicly listed port operator earlier bagged a government deal extending the company’s control over the South Harbor in Manila until May 18, 2038. The company also won the contract to manage, operate, develop and promote the container terminal in the second phase of the Port of Batangas for a 25-year period.

If publicly listed ATI pushes through with its bid, then it would be giving proponent Harbour Centre Port Terminal Inc. a run for its money.

SBMA and Harbour Centre last month signed an agreement that would grant the Romero-owned firm exclusive rights to handle the Subic Freeport’s bulk, break-bulk and general cargo for 25 years.

The agreement between SBMA and Harbour Centre would be the framework for a Swiss challenge, so the government sought comparative proposals from other firms.

To seal the deal, Harbour Centre would have to match what SBMA deems as the best offer from challengers. If Harbour Center fails to match it, the project would go to the challenger.

The company had said its proposal guarantees SBMA about $32 million in revenues over a 25-year period. It would initially invest P5.5 billion, with 60 percent of this project’s financing to come from loans, and 40 percent from equity.

Arreza said existing Subic cargo handling operators were invited to attend the agency’s board meeting on Friday so they can air their grievances.

A number of them voiced concerns on whether their contracts would be honored in the wake of a joint venture between SBMA and Harbour Centre.

One of the cargo handlers, Amerasia International Terminal Services Inc. (AITSI), had requested that SBMA conduct a public hearing on this matter. But Arreza said there is no basis for AITSI’s request. BY BEN ARNOLD O. DE VERA manilatimes.net Reporter

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