International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI) will submit before Easter to the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) its unsolicited proposal to develop two ports in Iloilo, said ICTSI global corporate head Christian R. Gonzalez.
After the submission, “the ball is in PPA’s court to determine the way forward,” Gonzalez told PortCalls in an interview on the sidelines of the company’s recent annual stockholders’ meeting.
ICTSI last year submitted a Letter of Intent to develop the Iloilo Port Complex and the Port of Dumangas for an estimated investment cost of over P5 billion. The proposal involves modernizing the ports’ infrastructure and superstructure and eventually managing and operating the two Iloilo ports.
The company said it hopes to assist the port authority in upgrading the Philippine port network and facilitating inter-island and international cargo movement.
Asked if developing Iloilo port is a priority for PPA, Gonzalez said: “In my opinion, it should be. It’s a good market and [there are] lots of potential there, and our vision there [really] is for it to be a Visayan hub …to compete with Cebu.”
He said the port currently only caters to domestic cargoes, but ICTSI’s vision is “to transition that into a hub where international vessels will also be calling in the near future.”
Once Iloilo port is modernized, Gonzalez said, “first and foremost, the local cargo that comes into Panay will no longer have to go to Manila or Cebu so [that means] significant savings for exporters.”
He added that the growing export market in Panay, on the other hand, “will have a direct link to the international markets without having to transship into Cebu or Manila.”
Gonzalez said ICTSI will continue to operate the port as a multipurpose terminal, “and then see how we do proper segregation.”
“You also have the issue of transitioning into an international terminal so you’ll also have to figure out how to properly segment the domestic side and the international side, to make the international side as efficient as possible while also at the same time improving the service of the domestic [side],” he further explained.
Gonzalez noted that once they secure PPA’s approval, “we’ll be able to go in and operate right away, so you’ll see improvements almost immediately.”
As part of its proposed investment, ICTSI will put in place new port equipment estimated to cost P1.35 billion during the first phase of operations, the company said in an earlier statement. The equipment will include modern quayside crane handling equipment.
But even without ICTSI’s proposal, Gonzalez noted that PPA has already ordered some equipment for Iloilo port.
ICTSI said integral to its proposed investment is dredging and deepening of the port and channel to allow for direct entry of new-generation international vessels.
ICTSI is also offering to invest substantially in the development of the Port of Dumangas in order to seamlessly handle spillover from the city port.
As with the other ports that it operates, ICTSI said it will introduce new systems for operations, engineering and administration, adding that automation will further promote efficiency and security. – Roumina Pablo