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As Davao prepares for key shipping role, fee hike looms in Manila port.

Mindanao is fast turning into a key transshipment point for goods in Asia as a 37-percent increase looms in tariff in a key port in Manila, which could jack up shipping costs for domestic cargo handlers.

According to a top executive of the firm that set up the Davao International Container Terminal (DICT) in a joint venture, more international shipping lines are looking at Mindanao as a transshipment hub as they find Singapore ports getting congested and more expensive.

The same situation could develop at the Manila North Harbor as a petition remains pending at the Philippine Ports Authority seeking a

37-percent increase in port tariff fees there, which groups of consumers, traders and shipping line officials are opposing.

In Davao City, Alex Valoria, president of the firm Anflocor, said more and more shipping lines were willing to use Mindanao as a transshipment hub over Singapore.

'Vessel owners now want to come here (in Mindanao),' said Valoria. 'What is so exciting is that they are saying Mindanao is ideal as a transshipment point,' he said during preparations for the inauguration of a new DICT facility.

Shipping costs in Singapore are becoming too high, which is driving shipping lines to Mindanao, according to Valoria.

At the North Harbor in Manila, several groups are opposing a bid by the port operator, Manila North Harbor Port Inc., to increase tariff.

Among the groups are National Center for Commuter Safety and Protection, United Filipino Consumers and Commuters, Philippine Interisland Shipping Association, Philippine Liner Shipping Association, Export Development Council and Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc.

In Davao, Valoria said he was initially puzzled at why shipping lines are interested in coming to Davao at a time that the new facility inaugurated Friday was still being conceptualized.

'But they told me Mindanao holds so much potential,' he said. 'Mindanao is very strategic,' he added.

'In reality today, they're coming over to put up the transshipment hub, getting their goods from Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia because Singapore ports, which are becoming congested, also cost much higher,' he said.

DICT offers world-class container and break bulk terminal facilities in the largely agricultural Davao region.

DICT is the only container port in the country that can accommodate Panamax ships, the biggest cargo vessels that can pass through the Panama Canal.

The first Panamax docked at the DICT on Christmas Eve in 2014, the first ever Panamax to arrive in the Philippines.

At the North Harbor, opponents of the tariff increase petition said the fee hike was not justified.

In an earlier report, Export Development Council chair Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. was quoted as saying the North Harbor port is a 'monopoly in domestic trade' which has virtually no competition. 'Port stakeholders have no choice but to transact business with them. Being a monopoly, it should even cut its costs rather than increase them,' Ortiz-Luis was quoted as saying previously.

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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Sep 3, 2016
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