Sasa delays to dampen Mindanao growth -- DoF

Posted on July 10, 2017

DELAYS in the improvement of Davao City’s Sasa port are expected to temper the rapid growth of Mindanao’s trade and industry hub, according to the Finance department.

Sasa Port in Davao City. -- Carmencita A. Carillo
“It wouldn’t derail it but it will certainly slow it down,” Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III told reporters late last week at the Department of Finance headquarters.

Mr. Dominguez, who is from Davao City, said that Davao has been growing rapidly, following the Davao-General Santos-Bitung (Indonesia) roll-on roll-off cargo service that was inaugurated by President Rodrigo R. Duterte and Indonesian President Joko Widodo in late April.

“But definitely, the trade is going fast in Davao, in fact they just launched the Davao-Bitung shipping line... Bitung is nearer to Davao than it is to Jakarta. So the flour mills in Mindanao can actually supply them at a lower cost than if they get it in other parts of Indonesia. It is really a very healthy trade between Indonesia-Davao,” he said.

“Davao’s exports of agricultural products are growing very fast so definitely they need a better port service,” added Mr. Dominguez.

Davao Sasa port was removed from the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) pipeline late last year by the Philippine Ports Authority due to its “unjustified cost” of P19 billion under PPP arrangements.

Mr. Dominguez said that the local government favors a new reclamation project, rather than rehabilitating the existing port.

“That issue is very complicated, because number one as I understand it the local Sangguniang Panglalawigan did not approve it. So you know, who are we to scrap it? I mean it is them who scrapped it, not us,” he said.

“There was a proposal to improve the Sasa pier which is part of that reclamation project of 200 hectares, so you know they have to decide, and that is really a local decision that has to be made by the city government,” he said.

Mr. Dominguez was referring to the $780-million land reclamation project that is a joint venture between the Davao City government, and Mega Harbour Port and Development, Inc. -- which was initially conceived when Mr. Duterte was still mayor -- that aims to build a technologically-advanced port with accompanying road, power and telecommunication infrastructure on man-made islands.

“As a whole thing we have to resend the project to the ICC (Investment Coordination Committee) and then the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board,” he said.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia has said that the NEDA Board, headed by Mr. Duterte, has remanded the project to the Transportation department, as they configure the proposal to bring down the cost.

Mr. Pernia said that the board is looking at a cost of around P7 billion.

He said that the proposal has to be “diligently studied,” before it is brought up again to the NEDA board for approval. -- Elijah Joseph C. Tubayan