“Every project is an opportunity to learn, to figure out problems and challenges, to invent and reinvent.”
By Alex P. Vidal
LET’S not be too excited to believe hook, line, and sinker that the Port of Iloilo in Loboc, Bo. Obrero district in Iloilo City, can be instantly transformed into a major international gateway once the International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI) has finished infusing some P8.7 billion for its development program.
It’s not bad to dream big and wish for the magnificence, but even in day dreaming, there’s a limit and logical considerations.
We all, of course, welcome any development, expansion, or whatever upgrading program not just for the Port of Iloilo, but also for other major public infrastructures in Western Visayas, as well as in the entire archipelago.
We commend private sector initiatives like the one being proposed by the ICTSI, owned by billionaire Enrique Razon Jr., and exhort the government to provide incentives for those wishing to improve major public facilities that can help uplift the lives of the people and create major inroads in the local economy.
But, wait a minute.
While we push for gargantuan developments, we must be realistic also with our expectations.
The proposed ICTSI project, now under review by the Philippine Port Authority (PPA), is eyeing “four development phases” that includes reportedly the “installing of ship-to-shore gantry cranes” and the “continuous upgrading of the yard capacity based on demand.”
Part of ICTSI’s plan is reportedly to build a cruise ship terminal that would cater to domestic and international tourists.
The project is expected to spur trade given that Iloilo is reportedly being positioned as a major exporter of agricultural goods once the Jalaur River Multi-purpose Project is completed in 2022 as emphasized recently by Senator Franklin Drilon, who supported the ICTSI project.
How plausible can a cruise ship terminal be integrated in a busy seaport that serves international shipping handling sugar and fertilizer shipments for international market?
Which part of the port area’s 20.8 hectares will the cruise ship terminal be built without any prejudice to a number of shipping companies like Lorenzo Shipping Corporation, 2GO, Amigo Shipping Company, New Panay Shipping Company, Sulpicio Lines, and Trans-Asia Shipping Lines Inc that are also using the Port of Iloilo?
The Port of Iloilo is located adjacent a mammoth residential colony and a small industrial district. How will they be affected by the ICTSI’s project?
Port of Iloilo, a natural artificial type of harbor, can’t be compared yet to the world’s busiest and largest seaports like the Port of Shanghai, a deep-water seaport/riverport and the biggest port in the world based on cargo throughput that handled 744 million tonnes of cargo in 2012, including 32.5 million twenty-foot equivalent units of containers.
Port of Iloilo, which handles 491.7 million tonnes annually, can’t be compared yet to the nearby Port of Singapore, which handled 537.6 million tonnes of cargo in 2012, its container throughput has reportedly crossed the 30 million TEUs mark for the first time in 2012.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)