DOTC defends GMA ports as ‘not overpriced’

By Cai U. Ordinario, Business Mirror

Posted at Apr 08 2011 02:07 AM | Updated as of Apr 08 2011 10:07 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Despite reports alleging that the Greater Maritime Access or GMA Ports project is overpriced, the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) maintained that the project cannot be termed as overpriced and could even be more bankable compared to previous roll-on, roll-off (Roro) port projects undertaken by the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA).

DOTC Undersecretary for planning Ruben S. Reinoso told reporters that the GMA ports project cannot be evaluated as overpriced without comparing the cost of all the components of building a Roro port as well as the lifespan, operation and maintenance of the project.

Reinoso said the GMA ports project will use movable ramps, includes the building of a terminal and has a guaranteed lifespan of 80 years, which is almost double the 30-to-40-year lifespan of traditional Roro ports made by the PPA.

“Unang-una, modular ito, yung ramps nito movable, 80 years ang life na gina-guarantee nito eh ’yung kanila reinforced concrete, hindi naman sila movable ramp, walang kasamang terminal. Ibig kong sabihin, kung yung mga dating ginagawa ng PPA, kung i-kukumpara mo dito, mas mahal ito kasi hindi naman comparable. Hindi component [by] component [ang comparison]. Pag na-unbundle mo ’yung component [by] component, lumalabas nga mas mura pa itong modular ports eh,” Reinoso said.

The DOTC official added that the project is still viable even if the GMA ports project will be implemented with a supply contract that usually ties the government to the contractor for the sourcing of materials and other supplies to be used for the Roro ports.

Reinoso said that to ensure that all the components of the Roro port will not be overpriced, the DOTC will require the unbundling of all these costs per component. This means that the cost of each part of the port like the approach, the pier and the ramp will all be scrutinized and compared with other sources.

However, Reinoso said all the issues regarding the cost and how reasonably priced the project is will be settled in a committee report made by an inter-agency group composed of the DOTC, PPA and the Marina.

Apart from the cost, the report will also tackle the issue of site selection for the GMA ports project. The project, Reinoso said, was initially envisioned as a project that will involve the creation of Roro ports in more than 100 sites in the country.

“We haven’t come up with the site selection. We first have to establish that the price is reasonable and the reasonability of the cost will be done by comparing apples to apples, not apples to oranges,” Reinoso said.

However, the financial limitations on the loan for the project made the government settle with the creation of 72 ports nationwide. Reinoso added that other limitations like the exact locations of the Roro ports to be built could even cut down the number of ports to be built. He said site selection is crucial since the government cannot build Roro ports in areas that are in “open water.” He said this will only make the project prone to typhoons and thus, be destroyed or have a significant reduction in its lifespan.

“Actually 100 plus ’yun eh [original number of ports to be built], hindi lang kaya i-finance nung loan kaya ni-reduce ng 70 tapos inadjust to 72. Pero apparently, marami daw dun exposed. Paano ka naman maglalagay ng port na open sea eh di pag binagyo nagiba yun?” Reinoso said.

The P11.78 billion GMA Ports Pro-ject involves the nationwide installation, establishment and development of 72 Roro ports for mobility enhancement, remote island development, and social reform support.

About 87.71% of the total project cost or P10.33 will be funded by Official Development Assistance while the remaining 12.29% or P1.45 billion will be the Philippine government’s counterpart.