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CPA stands by authority over ports amid suspected political maneuvers

By: Victor Anthony V. Silva October 24,2016 - 10:56 PM

A Cebu Port Authority (CPA) official has asserted his office’s mandate following reports of investment pledges from a Chinese company to help a Filipino firm in its international port project in Cebu on the very same site already being developed by CPA.

CPA is eyeing a 12-hectare site in Barangay Tayud, Consolacion, for the new international container port, the construction of which is seen to decongest the existing port at the North Reclamation Area in Cebu City.

Mega Harbour Port and Development Inc. is proposing to reclaim 85 hectares of land in Consolacion where a 1,200-meter berthing facility will be constructed, thus increasing Cebu’s capacity to receive port calls from international vessels.

“We won’t allow them to (push through with the project) because we are already pursuing the same project on the same site,” said CPA General Manager Edmund Tan, adding that the authority is the only agency mandated by law to be in charge of all port developments in the province of Cebu.

“We will fight for our mandate. If the President insists, they have to do it properly. We have to know what the whole project is about,” Tan told Cebu Daily News.

During his state visit to China last week, President Rodrigo Duterte secured $15 billion in investments from Chinese businessmen. The investment projects signed included the Cebu International Port and Bulk Terminal of Filipino company Mega Harbour and Chinese company CCCC Dredging Co., according to an Inquirer report.

Mega Harbour is a subsidiary of the R-II Group of Companies, which is engaged in infrastructure, housing and property development, port operations, waste management and environmental projects, among others.

Tan said that the CPA is already pursuing the P9.13-billion port project in Barangay Tayud, Consolacion, which was approved by the National Economic and Development Authority National Economic and Development Authority (Neda ICC-CabComm) last Sept. 28.

He is confident that the Neda Board, chaired by President Duterte, will approve the agency’s proposal because they have the mandate under Republic Act No. 7621 or the CPA Charter.

RA 7621 provides that no private person or entity or local government unit can construct a port or pier without a permit from the CPA. It also states that only the CPA can manage, operate, maintain and develop ports and port facilities in the whole Cebu province.

“Of course, if somebody would come in without coordinating with us, we will not give them clearance,” he said.

Last month, a day after the proposed CPA project was approved by the Neda ICC-CabComm, the Consolacion municipal government entered into a joint venture (JV) agreement with Mega Harbour for the construction of a P16.5-billion international container port project in the town.

At the moment, officials have yet to confirm whether the investment pledges are for the Consolacion project or for an entirely different undertaking by Mega Harbour.

Neda–Central Visayas Director Efren Carreon refused to comment on this development saying that he had yet to receive feedback from central office.

However, Carreon said private companies were free to undertake projects without the government, though they will still be subject to government policies and requirements, he said.

Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino, meanwhile, said that he was aware of the China deal but that he was not involved in it.

Asked whether the pledge was for the Tayud project, Dino said that he still had to check.

CPA’s planned new international container port in Consolacion will be funded by the Korean Official Development Assistance (ODA) with counterpart funds coming from the Philippine national government.

Construction is expected to begin in 2017 (should the Neda Board approve it by year-end); and will be completed 35 months later.

Tan said that while they were initially considering funding from the Korea ODA, other countries such as China may finance the project as well.

Tan said that since the Chinese investment pledges were already secured, these can be used to fund CPA’s own proposed project instead.

Sought for comment by CDN, Consolacion Mayor Teresa Alegado did not respond to calls or text messages.

Tan, for his part, recalled that Mega Harbour came to CPA to discuss plans for the proposed port, but since then President Benigno Aquino III did not like the idea of unsolicited proposals, the agency turned them down.

Asked about the possibility of President Duterte “bypassing” the mandate of the CPA to pursue the Mega Harbour project, Tan said that if that were the case, “the CPA might as well be abolished.”

“The problem is nobody advised him about the law. Well, he might be aware of the law, but there might be some politics involved. We have to scrutinize and evaluate whether that is viable or if it is disadvantageous to government,” said Tan.

Tan said that ports run by private companies usually charge higher rates, making importers and, ultimately, consumers suffer.

“How will they recoup their investments? They will have to increase their port charges and tariffs. Importers will suffer, but in the end, they will have to pass it on to the consumers,” Tan added.

Amid all this, Tan said he was confident the law will be on CPA’s side as the agency has “allies in Congress and the Senate who stand by its mandate to solely be in charge of all port developments in the province.”

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TAGS: Barangay Tayud, Cebu, Cebu Port Authority, China, Chinese, Consolacion, CPA, Duterte, economics, economy, Filipino, ICC, infrastructure, international, investment, Korean, Michael Dino, National Economic and Development Authority, NEDA, Philippines, port, terminal

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