MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court has removed the last remaining legal hurdle to the P14.5-billion investment by San Miguel Corp. (SMC) and Harbour Centre Port Terminal Inc. (HCPTI) in the modernization of Manila North Harbor.
This developed as The STAR learned that the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) approved the stepping in of SMC as HCPTI’s joint venture partner in the Manila North Harbor Port Inc. (MNHPI), the company granted a 25-year contract to operate, rehabilitate and modernize the country’s oldest and busiest port.
SMC, through subsidiary Petron Corp., acquired 35% of MNHPI vice Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) which pulled out of the joint venture due to control issues. HCPTI will own 65%.
The SC junked for lack of merit a petition filed by shipping companies and cargo handlers operating inside the North Harbor questioning the validity and legality of the contract between PPA and MNHPI.
HCPTI president Mikee Romero told The STAR that with the SC ruling and the transfer of MNHPI shares to Petron effected Wednesday, both HCPTI and SMC are now committed to pouring in P14.5 million into North Harbor.
“I just talked to (SMC president Ramon Ang) and he said they are now committed to investing in North Harbor,” he said.
In a resolution dated Dec. 15, 2010 but received only a few days ago, the SC dismissed the petition filed by the Philippine Liner Shipping Association (PLSA) questioning the contract awarding the management of the North Harbor to MNHPI.
The High Tribunal also dismissed petitions filed by other groups as it has consistently ruled on the validity of the public bidding and awarding of the project.
MNHPI has also submitted to PPA the comprehensive and revised masterplan for North Harbor’s modernization that considers the actual requirement of port users. It now includes the setting aside of 5 hectates for Petron’s bunker refuelling station.
“The refuelling station (and the resulting partial pullout of Petron from Pandacan) can be put up in 6 months to one year,” Romero said.
Romero told The STAR that of the P14.5 billion project cost, 40% will be equity financed while 60% will be from debts through a syndication of several banks.
MNHPI has also named former Asian Terminals Inc. (ATI) president Richard Barclay as its new chief operations officer while Petron and MNHPI will have a common chief financial officer.
Romero also revealed that in the masterplan, the actual volume of containers rather than the 850,000 base given by the PPA will be used as basis for the phasing of development. “But we will still have the passenger terminal in the next two years and the container terminal in the next three years,” he said.
SMC also plans to create a logistics hub in North Harbor for its food, beverage, and other products.
In another development, a certification of election among the employees of MNHPI has been successfully recently concluded.
Officials said MNHPI remains committed to respect the rights of laborers and address and uplift the livelihood of its employees.