New port infrastructure and better domestic connections to aid Philippine transport

An archipelago state, the Philippines has over 7000 islands, with the 11 largest holding 94% of land area. Accordingly, port infrastructure across the country remains a crucial component to overall connectivity. While ports have suffered from a general lack of investment, progress has been made in recent years through the development of roll on/roll off (ro-ro) ferry services, which are aimed at providing an alternative to traditional long-distance, inter-island shipping services.

In 2003 the government of the Philippines issued a policy to promote ro-ro as part of the state’s Strong Republic Nautical Highway programme. The growth of ro-ro services may have contributed to the decline in both freight and passenger traffic on conventional inter-island shipping services. It is estimated that the use of ro-ro offers a saving of about 12 hours in travel time between Mindanao and Luzon, and a reduction of about 30% in the cost of freight transport and 40% in the cost of passenger transport.

BIGGER & BETTER: The developments planned by the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) include the P260m ($5.85m) Caticlan Jetty Port expansion project that specifically targets the ferrying of tourists to and from the world famous destination of Boracay Island in Malay, Aklan. However, in 2011 the project was halted under a temporary environment protection order, sought by private organisation the Boracay Foundation (BFI), forcing the Aklan provincial government, Philippine Reclamation Authority, and the Environmental Management Bureau at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to suspend reclamation work despite the fact that it was almost 80% complete.

The rationale behind the freeze was that the reclamation would lead to the further erosion of Boracay’s coastline. However, after adjustments to the project to include only 2.6 ha of mainland Malay and not Boracay Island, the project met with BFI approval, and the Supreme Court was able to lift the decision in July 2014. The move will allow for the construction of a new terminal building, a crucial upgrade as the Caticlan Jetty Port is already far beyond its holding capacity. This has caused inconveniences to tourists, who have to wait for long periods to travel between mainland Malay town and Boracay Island. Alongside the new terminal building, other amenities will be constructed, such as a parking area, a health centre and a wellness centre.

In addition to the much-needed Caticlan Jetty Port expansion project, the state-run PPA has announced plans to fast track the expansion of the major ports of Bohol, Iligan and Butuan. The PPA earmarked P120m ($2.7m) in January 2014 for the expansion, P61.2m ($1.37m) of which is slated to be used on constructing of a passenger terminal building and expanding the back-up area at the Port of Talibon in Bohol.

The agency is also undertaking a P34.2m ($769,500) project to construct a transit shed at the Port of Iligan in Lanao del Norte. Submission and opening of bids for the two projects took place in January 2014, with companies at least 75% owned by Filipinos being allowed to participate. The PPA earmarked P23.84m ($536,400) for the paving of the existing back-up area in the Port of Masao in Butuan City, Agusan del Norte. The submission and opening of bids for the Butuan City project was also set for the beginning of 2014 through open competitive bidding under the revised implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act 9184, otherwise known as the Government Procurement Reform Act.

BOUNCING BACK: With major port projects nationwide being driven by domestic demand and ASEAN integration planned to be completed by the end of 2015, the nation is recovering from the serious impact of Typhoon Haiyan. In the city of Tacloban, approximately 580 km south-east of Manila, almost 95% of its transport system was destroyed. However, the administration of President Benigno Aquino III has been impressively proactive in getting things moving again. With regard to ports specifically, the government has spent as estimated P41.2m ($927,000) to complete the rehabilitation of 14 ports, and 44 more port rehabilitation projects are either ongoing or in the pipeline.

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The Report: The Philippines 2015

Transport & Infrastructure chapter from The Report: The Philippines 2015

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