ROUGH CUTS| The Sta. Ana port project: make it happen

SO THE DAVAO City government is hoping that the Sta. Ana port development project would come in ahead of the Sasa port expansion?

Or so it is what we could deduce from the statement of Engr. Ivan Cortez, head of the city’s Investment Promotions Center who also claimed that if this happens, the Sasa port project will become useless.

According to Cortez the Sta. Ana port development will have a total area of about 200 hectares part of which will be derived from reclaiming the shoreline. The project will have among its components a wharf, housing, a commercial complex, and a coastal road that will allow access to the port without passing the city’s downtown area. The purpose of the latter component is understandably to avoid a massive build-up of vehicular traffic. All in all, according to the City’s Investment Promotions Center head, the Sta. Ana port development will cost roughly P39 billion and is to be implemented under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) scheme. The proponent is one Mega Harbour Development Corp.

From the pronouncement of Cortez we can assume that the Sta. Ana port development initiative is emanating from the city government and as such we believe that the local government has already acquired rights over the port area. Air and sea ports are normally under the province of the national government that is why these are operated by special sub-agencies under the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).

But if this is now the case of the Sta. Ana port, then it is to the great advantage of Davao City since it will have more flexibility to decide on what to do with the port, how to develop it and how this should be run once the project is completed.

The city government however, is hitting the nail right on the head when it demanded from the proponent a study on the impact of the project on the traffic situation. It is the responsibility of the city officials to ensure that such a gargantuan project will not also create even bigger problem of traffic congestion.

We all know that the location of the Sta. Ana port is accessible only by passing the city’s central district. In fact all roads directly leading to the area are the busiest in the city and are often the sites of traffic gridlock. Hence, it would be more prudent for the city not just to ask for a study of the impact of the project on the traffic situation but to recommend, other than the construction of a coastal road, some more solutions to reduce vehicular congestions in and around the port area.

What we are looking at is to include under the housing component of the project additional ingress and egress roads passing through the housing area. We believe that these will be critical for the smooth flow of lighter vehicles that will enter and come out of the port area. The coastal highway can be devoted to large trucks delivering or withdrawing cargoes from the port.

Actually, we are assuming that the housing component of the port project in Sta. Ana is intended to address the need to deal with the informal settlers now occupying the vicinity of the port running from the back of the headquarters of the Task Force Davao up to the San Juan Village up to the shores of Agdao.

They are just too many that asking them to agree even just for a temporary displacement while the housing component of the port development is to be implemented will require serious negotiating skills. Such will be one, if not the biggest hurdle that the city government and the project proponent will have to confront.

And yes, both the city and the project proponent are reported slowing down in forcefully pushing the project because of that one provision of the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) law which gives the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) the power to disallow the implementation of a project if by its evaluation, it does not conform with what the national government prescribes.

Probably, this is also the reason why Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is getting more passionate in his advocacy for a Federal form of government. He knows very well that this present highly centralized system oftentimes deters the onset of development at the local level.

Will the Sta. Ana Port project be Duterte’s acid test in pursuing development programs that may run against certain limiting policies of the national government?

After all, the real measure of development is when project beneficiaries are far greater in number than the perceived sufferers. That is part of the trade-offs, but there is always a way to address the resultant problem.

Posted in Opinion