Home » Ports/Terminals » Subic cargo handler seeks stop to NSD award

CARGO-handler Amerasia International Services, Inc is seeking a stop to the awarding of the Naval Supply Depot (NSD) contract to Harbour Centre Port Terminal, Inc (HCPTI) by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).

Amerasia recently filed criminal charges at the Office of Ombudsman against officials of SBMA and HCPTI, accusing them of “perpetrating, in conspiracy with each other the crime defined in the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act … as well as the crime defined in Article 186 of the Revised Penal Code” on monopolies and restraint of trade.

SBMA will soon award the NSD contract to HCPTI after no other company expressed interest in the depot. HCPTI earlier submitted an unsolicited bid for the NSD.

The only thing preventing the award at this point is the election ban, from which SBMA has already sought exemption.

Amerasia said it was compelled to file charges after the SBMA on February 24, 2010 entered into an alleged anomalous joint venture agreement with HCPTI. Under the deal, the complainant said HCPTI was effectively granted by SBMA a monopoly of all operations (including the development, management and operation) in all existing usable wharves and ports located at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone.

The complaint contains alleged factual evidence which established SBMA’s “partiality”, “bad faith, and gross negligence in approving the contract”.

The contract disregarded “the fact that said wharves/ports are precisely where existing cargo handling operators are presently operating and doing business pursuant to their valid and existing contractual rights,” the complaint pointed out.

Nullification of contract

“The SBMA-HCPTI contract effectively nullified, without due process, Amerasia’s valid and outstanding 25-year Lease and Cargo Handling Operations Contract with SBMA,” Amerasia legal counsel Atty. Eulalio Ventura said in a statement.

“We hope that the charges we have filed before the Ombudsman will stop the awarding of the contract and ensure the protection of the locators’ right to operate the Subic ports and wharves. After all, they have invested millions of pesos and exerted a lot of efforts to make them clean, efficient, and profitable for SBMA,” Ventura said.

Included in the respondents are members of the SBMA Joint Venture Selection (JVSP) Committee headed by SBMA Administrator and CEO and JVSP Chairman Armand Arreza, who recommended the approval of the HCPTI proposal and contract. A second group of respondents comprise the SBMA Board of Directors headed by its chairman, Feliciano Salonga, who first approved in principle the HCPTI proposal and HCPTI chairman Reghis Romero II and HCPTI chief executive Michael Romero.

An Amerasia statement said the company handles about 70% of the break bulk and general cargo in Subic and contributed P400 million in SBMA revenues in its 14 years of operation. It provides livelihood for 300 families.

Similarly situated cargo-handling firms as well as port users may follow Amerasia’s lead and file similar charges against SBMA and HCPTI.5/10/2010

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