By Carmencita A. Carillo

DAVAO CITY — The Sasa Port Modernization Project, which was pulled out of the public-private partnership (PPP) program in late 2016 after President Rodrigo R. Duterte assumed office, is again up for consideration under the same funding scheme.

“The Sasa Port Modernization Project, through the push of the (Davao) Regional Development Council (RDC) and the city through Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, is now back as a PPP project,” National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Davao Region Director Maria Lourdes D. Lim said in an interview on Tuesday on the sidelines of the launching of the PPP Knowledge Corner.

Ms. Lim said the Department of Transportation (DoTr), which made the decision to put the Sasa Port upgrade back in the PPP lineup, will update the terms of reference for the project and have this ready by the second quarter.

The issuance of a new terms of reference will cancel all previous processes related to the project, the regional socioeconomic planner said.

Five companies had previously pre-qualified to bid for the then P19-billion project, namely: Asian Terminals Inc.-DP World FZE Consortium; Bollore Africa Logistics; International Container Terminal Services, Inc.; Portek International Pte Ltd.-National Marine Corporation Consortium with Toyo Construction Co., Ltd.; as well as San Miguel Holdings Corp.-APM Terminals Management (Singapore) Pte Ltd. Consortium with Hyundai Development Company and Hanjin Heavy Industries & Construction Co., Ltd.

The Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) pulled out Sasa Port from the PPP list in December 2016 after getting approval from the PPA Board to study alternative development plans with a budget of about P4.7-4.9 billion.

The P19-billion rehabilitation plan drafted under the administration of former president Benigno S.C. Aquino III met with strong opposition from the city government and the business sector which cited its cost.

Recently, the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. called for a revival of the project, which it said is crucial to trade.

“Since the terms of reference will be revisited, we expect the project cost will change and DoTr has estimated that it will be close to P6 billion,” Ms. Lim said.

The port modernization plan will include new facilities such as gantry, cranes, and extended berthing areas.

“We are not privy if there are interested bidders already,” the NEDA official said.

Based on the previously published bid invitation, Sasa Port has a total area of 18.1 hectares (ha), including a 4.15-ha container yard and an annual capacity of 550,000 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs).

Juan C. Sta. Ana, PPA general manager, said the volume to be handled at the port is expected to hit 1.2 million TEUs in the next five years.

There are about 25 other privately owned ports in the Davao Region.