MANILA Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada over the weekend announced that he had signed an agreement with the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) forming a construction consortium to develop the P7.4-billion expansion of the Manila Harbour Centre in the Tondo area.
Estrada said the memorandum of understanding (MOU) officially sealed the partnership of the city government, PRA, and Romero-led R-II Builders Inc. for the multibillion-peso expansion of the 79-hectare port facility.
“This MOU is significant because it’s the start of more development projects in our city, with the full support of President Duterte,” the mayor said.
“This means more jobs, economic opportunities, and billions of revenues not only for the Manileños and the city of Manila but also for the entire country,” he added.
PRA chairman Alberto Agra said the agreement was the first MOU signed by the PRA, a government-owned and-controlled corporation that oversees reclamation development in the Philippines, under the Duterte administration.
“Clearly, this is a priority of President Duterte – to bring progress, create more communities, ease traffic, reduce poverty. His general order to everyone in the government is to fast-track development so we can build fast while complying with all the requirements,” Agra said.
To those who have generally opposed reclamation projects in the past, he said, “there will be no shortcut” in securing the necessary government permits and clearances before implementing their projects.
“We will never sacrifice when it comes to environment. That’s why we need to secure an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR),” said the PRA chief.
Reghis Romero II, chairman of R-II Builders, recalled that in his recent meeting with Duterte, the Chief Executive favored the immediate implementation of the Manila Harbour Centre project.
R-II Builders expects to secure all permits, particularly the ECC from the DENR, and the final approval of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) by January.
“Our next step is to apply for an ECC and by the end of January, we expect PRA or NEDA to issue us the Notice to Proceed,” said Romero.
The P7.4-billion project will reclaim 50 more hectares of Manila Bay to expand the reclaimed land area of the existing 79-hectare Manila North Harbour Centre, which includes the country’s biggest port for bulk and break-bulk cargoes operated by Harbour Centre Port Terminal Inc.
In August, the city council ratified the joint venture agreement the city government entered into with R-II Builders for the port expansion.
Under the joint venture, Manila will receive a 15-hectare portion of the reclaimed area, which the city government is planning to develop as a new industrial-commercial complex.
Romero said the port expansion was badly needed to make the operation of the Manila Harbour Centre at par with international standards.
With the expansion, the Harbour Centre will be able to handle larger vessels, reducing costs and speeding the process of cargo handling.
The increase in Manila Harbour Centre’s capacity will allow it to accommodate 14 to 16 large vessels at a time and more than double its current yearly cargo volume of 6 million metric tons.
The project will also deepen the draft of the port’s berth to four meters, allowing it to accommodate the port calls of large international vessels.
“With everything in place, we’ll be able to complete the construction by the end of 2017, because we’re using the most advanced method of reclamation,” Romero said.