Asean, Mindanao sea links pushed

The National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) is pushing for the development of sea linkages between ports in Mindanao and three neighboring Asean countries to boost regional trade.

In a speech at the Second Mindanao Shipping Conference last Wednesday, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Emmanuel F. Esguerra said that since Mindanao played a critical role in the Asean Economic Community, the following commercial routes should be established or improved: Davao and General Santos to Bitung and Manado in Indonesia; Tawi-Tawi and Tarakan, Indonesia; Zamboanga and Muara in Brunei; and Zamboanga and Sandakan in Malaysia.

Esguerra, who is also Neda Director General, said there were still concerns on Mindanao’s sea transport sector that needed to be addressed.

Among the issues included the seaports’ limited capacity in terms of berthing structures, transit/cargo shed areas for non-containerized cargo, container yards for containerized cargo and passenger terminal buildings.

Esguerra said there was also a need to slash local cargo rates since prevailing rates in Mindanao are more expensive than foreign cargo rates.

The Neda chief said the government was ramping up infrastructure development to support economic growth across the country.

“The growth-enhanced fiscal space has allowed major investments in infrastructure, with spending on public infrastructure more than tripling. The bulk of investments were slated for transportation, covering 43 percent of total infrastructure investments from 2013 to 2016 and beyond, which was estimated to reach more than P7 trillion. This should be complemented by private investments in public infrastructure amounting to about P1.5 trillion based on the status of PPP (public-private partnership) projects as of April,” Esguerra said.

The Neda chief was also bullish about the planned implementation of the Three-Year Rolling Infrastructure Program (TRIP) starting July.

The Trip for the period 2017 to 2019 was aimed at “[meeting] investment targets for public infrastructure” while “[promoting] the optimal use of public resources for infrastructure development by assuring fund allocation for well-developed and readily-implementable projects,” Neda earlier said.

“The multiyear rolling program for infrastructure would assure us that once an infrastructure program has been planned, and it is rolled out, it is going to continue to receive funding from the government. This was one of our efforts to synchronize and tighten the link between the programming and budgeting functions of the government for infrastructure projects and programs,” Esguerra had said.

According to the Department of Budget and Management, “the policy of dispersing the investment/infrastructure spending toward growth regions in the Visayas and Mindanao (such as Central Visayas and Northern Mindanao) was pursued [under the Trip] to provide the physical infrastructure support for the promotion and development of business and industries.” Ben O. de Vera, Philippine Daily Inquirer

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