Home » Ports/Terminals » Subic port project faces opposition

OLONGAPO CITY – Officials and residents of this city have reacted strongly to a statement by Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Kojiro Tanako that the Subic Port Development Project is already a “done deal”.

Olongapo City Mayor Kate Gordon said local residents are alarmed because the project would destroy the marine environment of Subic Bay, depriving thousands of fisherfolk from Olongapo, Zambales and Bataan provinces of their means of livelihood.

Mayor Gordon said that it is only now that the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), which is sponsoring the project, is seeking the issuance of an Environmental Compliance Certificate without conducted the required public hearings and after the project had been bid out.

Tourism Secretary Richard Gordon, concurrently Cabinet Officer for Regional Development of Central Luzon, accused the SBMA of “diabolically hiding the project from the people who are the direct stakeholders, preventing them from expressing their objections to the project.”

Gordon pointed out that under the SBMA plan, the Philippine government would get a loan of $157 million from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), while the Philippines would put up a counterpart fund of $28 million, to finance the project.

“This amounts to P10 billion that the Filipino people would have to shoulder for a project that is unnecessary and non-viable,” Gordon said. He pointed out that it is not certain that the annual target of 900,000 TEUs (twenty equivalent units) of cargo volume would be reached by the port to pay for the investments.

“Of course the Japanese are eager for this port development in Cubi Point to materialize, because as all concessionary loans go, the contractors and consultants will all be Japanese, who will benefit, along with the Japanese economy. But in the end, the Philippines will foot the bill,” said Gordon.

City Councilor Ted del Rosario warned “the reclamation of Cubi Point will permanently damage Subic’s environment, fragile marine ecosystems and scenic view because over 2.5 million cubic meters of soil will be dumped into Subic bay. There will be damage to coral reefs, hatching grounds and fish sanctuaries, as well as mangroves.”

In their talk with Sec. Romulo Neri, secretary general of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the Gordons pointed out there is a better alternative to the port development project.

They told Neri that in 1993, the World Bank had recommended expansion of the Naval Supply Depot (NSD) in Subic which can handle a capacity of one million TEUs per annum. The concept then was to privatize the port, so that it could be developed without any government financial exposure.

Gordon said the private sector was willing to guarantee the government a concession fee of P140 million annually for the operation of the NSD. “It is very difficult to explain to the people why the government would incur a foreign loan of $157 million and invest P10 billlion in an unnecessary and probably non-viable project,” said Gordon.

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