BY ROGER M. BALANZA
The Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC) said those alleging overpricing in the proposed P17 billion Sasa Wharf Modernization Project in Davao City have their figures wrong.
The P17 billion is not the actual cost but only an estimated cost of the conceptual design of the project under a 30-year modernization plan, said DoTC Undersecretary Rene Limcaoco.
The government-owned Sasa Wharf is located in the industrial zone Second District 20 km. north of downtown.
Limcaoco also said comparing the cost of the project with cost of two other port facility projects in the Davao Gulf is not right.
The mega-buck project funded by the DoTC with a World Bank loan and to be implemented by the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) has yet to be bid out.
Limcaoco’s blast particularly targeted Peter Lavina, a former member of the Davao City Council who stoked a controversy with his allegation the project could be overpriced.
Lavina had also asked the Office of the Ombudsman to conduct a probe on why the cost of the project had ballooned to P17 billion from an initial cost of P4 billion.
“The P17 billion is merely an estimated cost of the conceptual design,” said Limcaoco.
Limcaoco made the explanation before members of the local press in an interview after his meeting Thursday, May 21, in Davao City with the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and private sector personalities.
‘The bidders do not have to follow this design. If they can come up with a better design with a cheaper cost, they are free to do so,” said Limcaoco who flew into Davao City as the allegation of overpricing was picked up as a major concern by the Davao City Council, the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCCI) and private port facility operators.
Limcaoco said the P17 billion 30-year conceptual design was projected to respond to Davao City’s requirement for a better port facility in future. The port of Davao, Mindanao’s fastest growing metropolis, is one of the busiest ports in the country.
Limcaoco also discredited claims that there could be overpricing by comparing cost of the Sasa port project with other projects in the Davao Gulf.
Lavina earlier compared the Sasa port project to the Hijo Port project of the Industrial Port Services pegged at P5.7 billion and the Davao International Container Terminal of the Anflo Management and Investment Corp. (ANFLOCOR) at P2.5 billion, which are on-going projects in Davao del Norte.
The figures are only initial investments, Limcaoco explained.
Hijo and DICT, over the next 30 years, will also be investing so the comparison is not right, he said.
The Sasa Wharf project is being opposed by private operators.
In a position paper, Jacobo Mantecon, Vice President of the Industrial Port Services , a part-owner of the Hijo Port, said instead of posing competition to the private sector, the Sasa Wharf could be developed for tourism.
We already have a number of private ports in South Central Mindanao to answer to the need for port capacity of international trade, Anthony Alexander Valoria, ANFLOCOR president, said in another position paper.
The role of government is to open new fields of investment opportunities for the private sector. Government should not be competing with existing private sector interest, said Valoria.
Another big ticket port facility project is on the drawing board in downtown as a component of the 200-hectare Davao City Reclamation Project, a Public-Privare-Partnership (PPP) endeavor between the Davao City government and developer Mega Harbour.
Limcaoco admitted that Sasa Wharf would be posing competition to private port operators, but this could also bring down cost of marine transport.
We want the port facilities to compete so that the price charged by the private sector is also competitive, said Limcaoco.