Estrada signs historic agreement for expansion of Manila’s Harbour Centre

The Daily Tribune| Written by: PNA| December 05, 2016

Following President Duterte’s order to fast-track reclamation projects in Manila, Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada has signed a historic agreement with the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) and a construction consortium that will pave the way for the P7.4-billion expansion of Tondo’s Manila Harbour Centre.

Estrada yesterday said the memorandum of understanding (MoU) officially seals the partnership of the city government, PRA and R-II Builders Inc. for the multi-billion-peso expansion of the 79-hectare port facility.

It also marks the Duterte administration’s first foray into reclamation as a key component of an infrastructure development framework.

“This MoU is significant because it signals the start of more development projects in our city, with the full support of President Duterte,” Estrada said.

“This means more jobs, economic opportunities, and billions of revenues not only for the Manileños and the City of Manila but also for the entire country.”

Estrada said he is grateful to Duterte for his wholehearted support to various infrastructures such as the Harbour Centre development, one of the more than 80 planned reclamation projects in the country.

“Being a former mayor himself, our President knows what the local governments require to promote development… like here in Manila, we need more land to hasten economic growth, land we do not have, thus we’re pushing reclamation,” Estrada added.

PRA chairman Alberto Agra said the agreement is the first MoU signed under the Duterte administration and the PRA, a government-owned and -controlled corporation that oversees reclamation development in the Philippines.

“Clearly, this is a priority of President Duterte — to bring progress, create more communities, ease traffic, reduce poverty. His general order to everyone in the government is to fast-track development so we can build fast while complying with all the requirements,” Agra said.

“To those who generally oppose reclamation projects in the past, he said “there will be no shortcut” in securing the necessary government permits and clearances before implementing their projects.

“We will never sacrifice when it comes to environment. That’s why we need to secure an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) from the DENR,” Agra said, aware of the expected opposition of the environmental groups to reclamation projects.

Reghis Romero II, chairman of R-II Builders, recounted that in his recent meeting with Duterte, the Chief Executive had voiced his desire to immediately implement the Manila Harbour Centre project for the full development of the capital city of Manila.

“President Duterte himself said Manila is his primary priority in development. Once Manila is moving everybody is moving,” he said.

He added they hope to secure all the permits, particularly the ECC from the DENR, and the final approval of the National Economic Development Authority (Neda) by January.

“Our next step is to apply for an ECC and by the end of January, we expect PRA or Neda to issue the Notice to Proceed,” he pointed out.

The P7.4-billion project entails the reclamation of 50 more hectares of Manila Bay to expand the reclaimed land area of the existing 79-hectare Manila North Harbour Centre, the country’s biggest international commercial port for bulk and break-bulk cargoes operated by Harbour Centre Port Terminal Inc.

Last August, the city council ratified the joint venture agreement (JVA) the city government entered into with R-II Builders Inc. for the subject port expansion.

Under the JVA with R-II Builders Inc., Manila will be appropriated with a 15-hectare portion of the soon-to-be-reclaimed area which the city government is planning to develop as a new industrial complex.

Romero pointed out the port expansion is badly needed to make the operation of the Manila Harbour Centre at par with international standards.

With the expansion of the facility further out to sea, the Harbour Centre will now be able to handle larger vessels, thus reducing the costs of and speeding the process of cargo handling, Romero added.

The increase in Manila Harbour Centre’s capacity will enable it to accommodate 14 to 16 large vessels at a time depending on size, and more than double its current yearly cargo volume of 6.0 million metric tons, Romero said.

The project will also deepen the draft of the port’s berth to four meters, enabling it to accommodate the port calls of large international vessels, he added.

“With everything in place, we’ll be able to complete the construction by the end of 2017 because we’re using the most advanced method of reclamation,” he said.