THE PHILIPPINE GOVERNMENT will lose a lot of expected revenue if it delays the needed rehabilitation and repairs of the fast decaying facilities of Sasa Port in Sasa, just over 10 kilometers away from the Davao City Hall.
This was just one of the findings of a study on the Sasa Port case conducted by two researchers – Cleofe Arib and Jocelyn Joson, belonging to the Center for Business Research and Extension (CBRE) of the Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU).
Misses Arib and Joson presented their findings last Friday afternoon to invited stakeholders and media practitioners at the 8th floor of the Xavier Hall of Ateneo’s Community Center of the First Companions.
“Due to its delayed modernization and upgrading of equipment, the government has incurred opportunity loss,” the researchers said, adding that for 2015 alone, the government has forgone approximately P317 million in government revenues.”
They said that it is expected that this will balloon to an accumulated total of P1.8 billion in the next five years, even granting that there would be no increase in rates and opportunity to earn more government revenues.
In their study, the lady researchers pointed out the strategic location of the Sasa Port as it “possesses the ideal environment for a commercial port.”
They pointed out at least four advantages of the biggest government port in the region.
They said that Sasa Port is along the Pakiputan Strait and opposite the island Garden City of Samal, a strategic location that “offers natural protection from the force of high winds and powerful waves needed for safe berthing and anchorage. There is no need to construct breakwaters.
Another advantage is that the port has deep waters. The researchers said the draft at Sasa wharf is at 10 meters which is sufficient to accommodate larger ships with minimal dredging needed.
The third advantage is the presence of “brownfield in nature.” They said the needed support of the port is already in place in the form of customs, depots and warehouses and shipping agents. There is no immediate need for the acquisition of right of way to achieve the minimum required port capacity and operational productivity, they added.
The fourth advantage of the Sasa Port is its proximity to Davao City which is the country’s largest urbanized population outside Mero Manila.
“At least 200 of the country’s largest companies operate in the city and the Davao region is Mindanao’s major economic center in terms of value of gross domestic product,” the research indicated.
Challenges and decline
However, despite its strengths, Sasa wharf lags behind and lacks competitiveness over the other mostly privately-operated ports in the Davao region.
“Sasa Port lacks the necessary sophistication to facilitate efficient shipping and cargo-handling services,” the study bared, saying that “the strong regional economic growth, robust international trade and the increasing containeration of bananas have highlighted the crucial deficiencies of the Sasa Port.”
The Ateneo researchers said that “the growing economy of the region coupled with the absence of loading closing times and dedicated berths bring forth long waiting time for the container vessels, especially during weekends.”
Showing comparative statistics from 2014 to 2016 indicating continuing decline, the researchers said the loss was brought about by numerous factors.
One is the productivity issue. They said the stakeholders interviewed by them complained about the poor operational practices and performance of the port that result in poor outturn of vessel and cargo operations, particularly small vessels calling at the port, long berthing waiting time and sluggish turnaround, high dwell time of cargo, high risk of cargo damage and congestion of port facilities.
Another problem is deterioration of the port as its quays demand immediate major repairs.
A third and major factor is the modernization of neighboring private ports such as the world-class Davao International Container Terminal in Panabo City, a little more than 20 kilometers away from Sasa.