By NELSON V. CONSTANTINO, Editor-in-Chief
THE Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) is keen to push ahead with its decision to privatize at least five state-controlled ports, including four in Mindanao as part of the Aquino administration’s strategy to allow the private sector help the government in funding infrastructure projects.
The first targets will include the Iloilo Commercial Port Complex, those in Cagayan de Oro, Ozamiz, Zamboanga and General Santos, as well as the roll-on, roll-off ports belonging to the Strong Republic Nautical Highway.
The PPA owns and controls more than a hundred ports all over the country. At the same time, however, PPA General Manager Juan C. Sta. Ana said he would continue to improve the operations of profitable government ports.
“We subscribe to the basic notion that the private sector is the engine of growth. For this reason, we should continue to encourage more private-sector participation in the management, operation and development of ports,” Sta. Ana, in a statement, said.
Over the past years, the PPA was only able to privatize a handful of ports. The most recent was the Batangas Port, which has been idle for two years before its takeover by Asian Terminals Inc. (ATI), and the Manila North Harbor. Some of the port holdings privatized included the Manila International Container Terminal operated by the International Container Terminal Services Inc. and the Manila South Harbor of ATI. The PPA, one of the most profitable of the government-owned and -controlled corporations, was able to devolve some of the local ports to municipal governments the last few years.
Sta. Ana said the government is reducing its presence in these port facilities in line with the government’s private-public partnership.
He added he expects all of the PPA’s more than 100 ports to be privatized before the end of the Aquino administration in 2016.
Three of the five ports already have private cargo-handling operators.
A subsidiary of International Container Terminal Services Inc (ICTSI) operates Davao port; Oro Port runs Cagayan De Oro port; and Asian Terminals Inc and ICTSI jointly operate General Santos.
These ports handle the bulk of local and international trade in Visayas and Mindanao.
For now, the port of Cagayan de Oro and Mindanao International Container Terminal Port (MICTP) ranked second only to Cebu City in terms of revenue collection in the Visayas-Mindanao region.
During the first quarter of this year, MICTP posted more than fifty percent increase in its containerized cargo handling compared to last year. Data showed that containerized volume reached 37,940 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) during January to March, way above previous year’s 24,868 TEUs.
MICTP Seaport Department Head Dante Clarito attributed the increase to the continued growth of the manufacturing sector and the robust mining industry in the region.