PH urges Asean to use Maritime Silk Road to expand trade

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THE Philippines is urging the member nations of the Asean Ports Association (APA) to align their policies and port infrastructure improvements to take advantage of China’s Maritime Silk Road (MSR).

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Speaking before the delegates of the 42nd APA Main Meeting hosted by the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) this week, Transport Secretary Arthur P. Tugade said the MSR offers immense growth opportunities as it allows Asean to expand its trading base beyond traditional markets like the USA, Japan, China, Australia and India.

The Maritime Silk Road is principally a sea route from the South China Sea and South East Asia, through the Indian Ocean and Middle East area into the eastern Mediterranean.

“I am convinced that opportunities are there for making strategic port infrastructure investment, which can connect major Philippine gateways and other APA ports to huge markets along the Maritime Silk Road Corridor,” Tugade explained.

“The Philippine Government had already expressed its intention to tap the China Maritime Silk Road Initiative (CMSRI) during the visit of President Duterte to China and Japan recently,” Tugade said.

“The Philippines, in particular, is looking forward to tap the huge China tourism market from a stronger relationship with China now. However, it needs to catch up with its neighbors, which enjoy huge cruise tourist arrivals as they continuously prep up their ports for cruise tourism,” Tugade added.

Aside from the MSR, Tugade also stressed the significance of the Maritime Cooperation Agreement with Japan anchored on safety and security to the Philippines and the entire APA community considering the group’s strategic program on port safety, health, and environmental management and their initiative in promoting green and sustainable ports through best practices as well as the Asean Maritime Ro-Ro route particularly the Bitung-Davao-GenSan link.

PPA General Manager Jay Daniel R. Santiago said the agency is looking forward to establishing closer ties with the members of APA and furthering active engagement in collaborative efforts with APA priority concerns as foundations for future policy formulation and program planning.

“APA will always take a dynamic and active role in our collective pursuit to attain efficiency and productivity in our ports while gearing up for more challenges that will strengthen the Association’s clout in the Asean community by way of more focused and groundbreaking port and maritime initiatives and projects,” Santiago explained.

“We, in PPA, remain confident that the future of the APA will always remain bright intertwined with the unified efforts of its member nations,” Santiago added.

APA Secretary General Sandhy Wijaya identified two challenges facing the Asean port industry next year. These include the stronger bargaining power of shipping alliances due to the impact of the shipping alliance reorganization from four shipping alliances into three shipping alliances in 2017, and the increasing number of green vessel which obliges ports to provide green services.

“The strong bargaining power of shipping alliances forces the ports to restructure their cost and redesign their business processes in order to increase efficiency and provide the lowest possible tariff,” Wijaya explained.
“Asean ports have to find the way to cope with the challenges by more investment in port infrastructure, information technology and people quality. These challenges will create winners and losers in the terminal business,” Wijiya said.

The 9-member countries of APA include Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

APA was formed in 1974, as an alliance of port authorities in Asean to pursue the broad objectives of information exchange, harmonization of trade practices, and promotion and facilitation of trade among Asean ports.

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