‘PORT MAKES A CITY’: Ilonggo senator hails ICTSI investment in Iloilo port

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

The significant investment that the International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI) is poised to inject to develop and manage the Iloilo Commercial Port Complex (ICPC) will reinvigorate the economy and establish Iloilo as an international gateway.

Former Senate President Franklin M. Drilon, a strong advocate for the privatization of the Iloilo port, said the project will see around P1.1 billion in investments within the first two years and more is expected as cargo volume increases.

“With the substantial investment that ICTSI is poised to inject, we are now on the path to realizing our shared aspiration of restoring Iloilo to its former stature as an international gateway, as it was at the turn of the 20th Century when Iloilo was dubbed as the ‘Queen City of the South,’” Drilon said.

“I am glad that ICTSI has finally been awarded the 25-year concession as the port operator. Ricky Razon and ICTSI deserve special recognition for their significant investment and unwavering confidence in Iloilo. ICTSI is a true partner in moving Iloilo forward.”

Drilon said the condition of the port had been a significant impediment to progress, and this partnership with ICTSI could be a game-changer.

“The condition of our ports has been a stumbling block for our development. Iloilo had endured neglect during the past administration, resulting in a lack of capacity and inefficient operations that deterred shipping companies from using Iloilo as a port of call,” Drilon said.

“ICTSI has the experience and financial capability and resources to operate the port efficiently, which will result in job creation and better investment environment. An efficient port operation is the critical missing piece to spur Iloilo’s growth,” he added.

The former senator said ICTSI’s track record bodes well for the development of ICPC.

“With its impressive track record, ICTSI is well-positioned to efficiently manage the ports and address the longstanding congestion issues plaguing our ports, which have deterred potential investors,” Drilon said.

The Ilonggo leader and changemaker said the rehabilitation and modernization of the Visayas Container Terminal (VCT), the future name of the facility after handover to ICTSI – will boost the local economy and position Iloilo as a key player in domestic and international trade.

“After all, as they say, ‘Port Makes a City,’” he added.

Drilon’s advocacy for private sector involvement in the Iloilo port’s management goes back to the late President Noynoy Aquino’s administration.

During the Cory Aquino administration, he played a crucial role in transferring the management of the Iloilo port back to the Philippine Ports Authority, following a period of neglect and mismanagement.

ICTSI will begin its operations of the facility upon contract signing and PPA’s issuance of the Notice to Proceed.

ICTSI’s offer for the 25-year contract involves a concession fee of P750 million for the sixth to 10th year. It is larger than the minimum fixed concession fee of P500 million stated in the contract.

ICTSI executive vice president Christian Gonzalez emphasized that ICTSI’s proposal outlines significant investments in infrastructure upgrades, cargo-handling equipment, and operational efficiency measures to transform the Iloilo Port into a premier gateway.

ICTSI currently features a 627-meter operational quay length and 20 hectares of land for container and general cargo storage, warehousing, and other cargo-handling activities.

“I am confident that this strategic move by the PPA, in collaboration with ICTSI, will lead to a revitalized and efficient port complex in Iloilo,” he added.

As the new port handler, the ICTSI will rename the Iloilo Port the Visayas Container Terminal (VCT).

The enhancements to the infrastructure of the soon-to-be VCT are expected to facilitate an increase in international container ship arrivals and streamline the flow of goods in and out of the port.

PPA data showed that cargo throughput in the Visayas reached 38.1 million metric tons from January to September last year, representing approximately 19 percent of the total cargo volume across the country during that period.

With its redevelopment and expansion, the PPA aims to convert ICPC into an exclusive port for international vessels and cargoes to decongest the main gateway in Manila.

Domestic vessels and cargoes will only be allowed in the initial five years of the contract or until completion of the port development project at Fort San Pedro port in Iloilo City proper.

The ICTSI is the sole bidder for the 25-year contract to manage and operate the cargo-handling and related services of the Iloilo Port, according to the PPA.

The Razon-owned company won the contract after it was rebidded on January 11 this year.

In the first bidding on December 18, 2023, the ICTSI’s sole bid was declared failed due to the absence of a notarized Secretary’s Certificate or any legal document confirming ICTSI’s authorization in its Omnibus Sworn Statement. (With a report from Rjay Zuriaga Castor)

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