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Central Visayas calls for better ports as boom brings more traffic

Cebu port is suffering from congestion.

STRONG economic growth in the Central Visayas, Philippines in recent years has generated more jobs, attracted more tourists and increased passenger and cargo traffic at the region’s wharves, particularly in Cebu City where the port is getting congested.

Heightened economic activity and people movement underline the need to develop the region’s ports to cope with demand and avoid accidents, stakeholders were told at the 2nd Visayas Cargo-Handling Operations Excellence Forum in Cebu City on July 26.

The economies of Cebu, Bohol, Negros Oriental and Siquijor provinces, which make up Central Visayas or Region VII, had been so robust that in 2011 they surpassed growth targets for that year by a wide margin, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said.

“There is a need to facilitate the movement of passengers and cargo in our ports since with the present practice accidents are bound to happen,” NEDA Region VII director Buenaventura C. Go-Soco Jr. said in his presentation.

Go-Soco said Central Visayas logged a gross regional domestic product (GRDP) growth of 7.9%, sharply higher than the target ranges of 5.7-6.1% for 2011 and 6.5-7.0% for 2012. Achieved growth for 2012 was not available.

GRDP, a sub-national GDP for gauging the size of the region’s economy, comprised economic output from three sectors – agriculture, industry and services.

Go-Soco said the region’s growth was driven by manufacturing, business process management and tourism.

The value of manufactured exports from the region shot up 88.2% to US$4.33 billion last year from $2.3 billion in 2011, as investors regained confidence in the manufacturing sector and export-oriented producers showed signs of recovery, Go-Soco said.

Business process management (BPM) revenue surged 21.8% to $516.8 million last year from $424.2 million in 2011, the NEDA presentation showed. The BPM players were Philippine Economic Zone-registered firms in Cebu and Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental.

Go-Soco said Region VII contributed significantly to the gross value added (GVA) of the construction, manufacturing, trade/repair of motor vehicles, and real estate/renting/business activity sectors.

Last year, the region ranked first nationwide in this category for construction with a 2.02 percentage point (ppt) contribution, and No.3 in GVA contribution to manufacturing with 0.48 ppt; trade/repair of vehicles, 0.26 ppt; and real estate/renting, 0.70 ppt.

Tourism helped fuel growth of the services and construction sectors, with total visitor arrivals last year rising 14.6% from an 8.1% growth in 2011, Go-Soco said. He said the increased tourist arrivals and growing trade had caused congestion at Cebu port, which caters to both domestic and international shipping.

The Tubigon and Tagbilaran Ports in Bohol are fast becoming gateways of tourists visiting Bohol, the NEDA official said. Meanwhile, the vibrant BPO-IT industry has drawn migrants into the region.

Go-Soco said manufacturing, which is showing signs of recovery, is expected to draw more shipcalls to the region.

He said movement of goods has been facilitated with the operation of LGU-managed ports serving the following routes: Bato, Samboan, Cebu to Tampi, Negros Oriental; Dalaguete, Cebu to Panglao, Bohol; Argao, Cebu to Loon, Bohol; and Jagna, Bohol to Mindanao.

“There is a need to improve port facilities for the convenience of passengers,” Go-Soco said.

“There is likewise a need to converge or coordinate with other agencies whose projects may be affected or may affect the port.”

He cited the proposed Cebu International Port, which is to be located off the Consolacion-Liloan shoreline.

“The need for an access road as well as a bridge must be impressed on the DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) so that the port operations will be facilitated,” he said.

The forum organized by AGF Consulting Group-Philippines in collaboration with The Philippine Chamber of Arrastre and Stevedoring Operators Inc., Philippine Ports Authority-Visayas and Cebu Port Authority, was held at Cebu Parklane Hotel.

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