Pimentel warns against RoRo ports cancellation

The Philippine Star

Posted at Aug 11 2011 07:08 AM | Updated as of Aug 11 2011 06:57 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Former Senate President Aquilino Q. Pimentel Jr. warned yesterday that the reported move of President Aquino to drastically reduce the number of French-supplied modular roll-on, roll-off (roro) ports would severely retard the development of remote islands and “further deepen rural impoverishment.”

Of the originally proposed 72 ports, Aquino said last Tuesday that he was considering implementing only six based on a study made by the DOTC that this was all that was required by the country.

Pimentel said the RoRo ports play a vital role in providing “broad and decentralized” socio-economic reform to islands that needed it most, adding that having more ports throughout the archipelago would reduce the current monopolistic chokehold that the current ports strategy encourages.

Among the reasons President Aquino cited in considering the reduction of the number of roro ports is that the DOTC report makes it appear that many ports will be placed in areas with “unusually high waves” and doing so would void the warranties provided by the French supplier.

“That report is flawed and very one-sided,” said Pimentel, pointing out that the supply contract approved by the DOTC in November 2009 clearly states that it is the obligation of the Philippine government via DOTC to locate the port sites in sheltered areas chosen by them, as well as conduct the necessary geophysical studies for onshore and offshore works.

“Contrary to what the DOTC wants to show, their eyes were wide open when they signed this contract,” said Pimentel.

Pimentel cited a contract provision that says the supplier is in fact prohibited from taking part in the site selection process. “The structures supplied are based on the locations provided in due time by the purchaser. The supplier has no responsibility in the selection of port sites where the Unibridge Modular Roro Port will be installed,” he emphasized.

“A simple review of the contract will already expose the DOTC report as erroneous,” said Pimentel. “It is sheer folly to base decisions on such disinformation,” he said, “especially since the proposed demand for 72 ports also came from the Philippine government, based on ADB and JICA studies that stated we need as many as 234.”

Pimentel said more RoRo ports would help deliver social reform and remote islands development, two programs already in place in two previous administrations to spur socio-economic development throughout the archipelago.

Pimentel added that islands cannot simply wait for business to grow to a point that it justifies a port being built. “The role of government is to deliver basic goods and services, like infrastructure, at optimum levels. Then business and development will follow.”

Meanwhile, the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) has forwarded to the Department of Justice (DOJ) all documents pertaining to the controversial and allegedly overpriced P11.8 billion Greater Maritime Access (GMA) modular roll-on, roll-off (RoRo) ports project of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for “legal evaluation”.

Aside from the DOJ, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) will also be given a complete set of documents of the project involving 72 modular ports, 66 of which had been ordered cancelled by President Aquino last week.