BOC-Davao pushes Mindanao logistics hub plan

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BOC-Davao pushes Mindanao logistics hub plan
Bureau of Customs Port of Davao district collector Atty Erastus Sandino Austria making a presentation on the Southern Philippines Logistics Hub at the recent PortCalls Mindanao Shipping Conference 2023 in Davao City. PortCalls photo.
  • Plans are afoot to turn Mindanao into an international logistics hub to take advantage of the region’s strategic location, according to the Bureau of Customs
  • The planned Southern Philippines Logistics Hub (SPLH) will serve as an international trade gateway to Asian markets such as China, Japan, and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, including the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area
  • A technical working group has been created to push the project forward and prepare a data-driven, evidence-based study on the SPLH’s viability
  • Gaps and challenges have been identified, as well as courses of action to address these

The Bureau of Customs (BOC) Port of Davao is working on establishing Mindanao as an international logistics hub, taking advantage of the region’s strategic location.

The Southern Philippines Logistics Hub (SPLH) will serve as an international trade gateway to Asian markets such as China, Japan, and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), including the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP EAGA).

The plan also aims to turn the SPLH into an alternative hub in Southeast Asia and stimulate economic development throughout Mindanao, BOC-Davao district collector Erastus Sandino Austria said in a presentation at the Mindanao leg of the recent PortCalls Visayas and Mindanao Shipping Conference in Davao City.

Austria said BOC is looking at the Regional Development Council XI’s Davao Gulf Area Development Plan 2011-2030 as a jump-off point where they can pattern the plan for the SPLH.

The project initially targeted the Davao region only, but now it includes Region XII (SOCCSKSARGEN) and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

The plan takes advantage of Southern Mindanao’s strategic location, which historically has been part of important maritime trade routes, and is backed by the economic performance and advantages of the three involved regions, which also have strong agricultural industries.

In 2021, Davao region’s economy grew at 5.9%, Region XII at 5.2%, and BARMM at 7.5%.

Austria acknowledged that other countries are also trying to position themselves as logistics or transshipment hubs, which is why BOC-Davao is “working very fast to sell this idea to the different actors in the supply chain.”

BOC-Davao made a study of the different gaps and challenges for the project. These include a lack of data and technical expertise in policy development, seaport and airport infrastructure, and road and rail network.

To address these gaps and challenges, Austria said one of the courses of action was the creation of a technical working group (TWG) to push the project forward and come up with a data-driven, evidence-based study on the viability of the SPLH.

He said the TWG will have to identify exactly the metrics and what the project entails and requirements will be.

The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA)-Economic Development Committee (EDC) XI approved in December 2022 the recommendation of BOC-Davao to create a TWG for the logistics hub project.

The TWG consists of BOC, NEDA, Mindanao Development Authority, Department of Transportation, Philippine Ports Authority, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, Board of Investments, Philippine Economic Zone Authority, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, port operators, shipping lines, customs brokers, and the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Austria said the TWG will be coordinating with government agencies and policymaking bodies for the improvement of transport systems, as well as with the private sector, so they can identify the needed additional land, seaport, and airport facilities.

He said the TWG will also see the need to capacitate BOC to ensure they will be able to cater to the requirements of a logistics hub.

BOC-Davao has partnered with the Development Academy of the Philippines for a specialized training curriculum for customs personnel that will eventually lead to a master’s program that is tailor-fit for BOC’s requirements. An organizational review will be conducted, which may require a restructuring of the collection district.

In an interview with PortCalls at the sidelines of the conference, Austria said the target for now is to determine what the deliverables are for each of the different members of the TWG, as well as the frequency of meetings, finalization of the membership of committees, and validation of the Davao Gulf Area Development Plan as a jump-off point, and other government roadmaps, among other things.

Austria said the TWG will still need to identify the metrics of the project, as well as the timelines, considering that realizing the project will take some time. – Roumina Pablo