SPEAKING at a joint meeting of the Philippine International Seafreight Forwarders Association (PISFA) and the Aircargo Forwarders Association of the Philippines on August 11, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade outlined his development plan for the maritime sector over the next six years.
The plan include projects to ease reliance on the Port of Manila, maximize the use of Subic, and to phase out the commercial use of old and wooden-hulled ships. The long-term objective, he said, was to develop a 30-year transportation plan for the country.
Much of the plan focused on relieving Metro Manila traffic congestion and improving public transportation infrastructure, but Tugade did offer several key initiatives for the shipping sector.
To relieve reliance on Manila and South Luzon ports—particularly Batangas, which is increasingly being used by locators in the Cavite-Laguna-Batangas industrial zones south of Metro Manila—Tugade encouraged shippers to use rail links, barges, and roll-on roll-off (ro-ro) networks to distribute shipments to other terminals.
Currently, a project to upgrade ro-ro ports along a route stretching from Batangas to Cagayan de Oro, called the Central Spine Roll-on/Roll-off project, is under preliminary study and development by the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Center.
Another significant initiative Tugade said the Department of Transportation (DOTr) is studying is connecting the Subic port with the airport at Clark with a rail link. “The advantage of Subic as a seaport will be the advantage of Clark as an airport, and the advantage of Clark as an airport will be the advantage of Subic as a seaport,” Tugade said expansively, pointing out that the linkage would give freight forwarders in either location increased flexibility.
In order to improve maritime safety, Tugade also said the DOTr plans to phase out wood-hulled commercial ships and vessels more than 35 years old. He stressed, however, that the government would not do so without offering assistance, such as in the form of low-cost financing, to businesses that would be affected by the move. BEN KRITZ