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Mindanao port upgrades needed to boost region’s standing as import hub

DAVAO CITY — Port development in Mindanao will stimulate the logistics industry and position the southern island as a viable hub for imports that will then be transshipped south to north as an alternative to importing through Manila, a Mindanao business leader said.

Ricardo F. Lagdameo, chairman of this year’s Davao Investment Conference (ICon 2021), said it is cheaper to import through Mindanao and from there distribute goods to the rest of the country, compared to landing the imports in Manila, which suffers from congestion. Additionally, shipping rates are more expensive going south.

“I would encourage importers to look at the reverse and we do have several of them that are doing that already. We have less congestion, domestic shipping is cheaper going the other way around,” Mr. Lagdameo, president of Davao-based Damosa Land, Inc., said on Oct. 27 during the third in a series of webinars leading up to the investment conference on Nov. 11-12.

“Davao gives you access to the Mindanao market and also access to the Visayas as well. It is something that I would encourage shipping lines, importers, and investors to consider,” he added.

Donna May Lina, executive board director at logistics conglomerate OneLGC or the Lina Group of Companies, said in the same forum that Mindanao is viable as an import hub given its current economic landscape, location, and human resources.

“One (factor) is lower cost of living and transactions; there’s also less congestion. There are also fewer typhoons going around in the Davao region, which means less disruption in moving goods. Of course, there’s also the great people who are highly trainable and warm,” Ms. Lina said.

One of the focus areas of this year’s Davao ICon is to promote and position Mindanao as a logistics hub in Southeast Asia.

Malou G. Monteverde, president of the Davao City business chamber, said making Mindanao a key logistics center requires government action on port upgrades.

Two seaports in Mindanao — Sasa Port in Davao City and the General Santos City Port — have pending unsolicited proposals under a private-public partnership scheme.

Original proponent status has been awarded to Chelsea Logistics Holdings Corp. for the P19.9-billion Sasa Port project, and to Davao-based Kudos Trucking Corp. for the P5.2-billion GenSan Port.

Ms. Monteverde said the upgrade of major ports should be complemented by the development of smaller ports that could serve as “smaller hubs.”

“Though, we have a main hub we can also have a smaller hub. In Mindanao, there are still a lot of smaller hubs that can be developed. So the PPA (Philippine Ports Authority) also has to do its share… That is something we should look forward to so that the cost of shipping and logistic will be lowered too,” she said.

Tony S. Peralta, chairman of the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP)-Southern Mindanao Business Council, said Royal Cargo, Inc. recently commenced shipping from Davao City to the US West Coast.

The company’s Philippine-flagged MV Iris Paoay, left Davao on Oct. 24 bound for Long Beach, California.

Mr. Peralta said the vessel of Royal Cargo, an ECCP member, is carrying agricultural and industrial products.

“I hope this kind of development can spur more trade for Mindanao,” he said. — Maya M. Padillo

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