China eyes ferry systems

September 6, 2011 at 12:15

CHINA has expressed interest in pursuing two roll-on, roll-off (Ro-Ro) projects in the country, the Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC) said in a statement on Monday.

This, after the department recommended to Malacañang in August the cancellation of the Greater Maritime Access (GMA) Ro-Ro project contract signed in 2009 with the French government for allegedly being overpriced.

The department also reiterated that talks have begun for a “reconfiguration” of the contract for the North Rail project as a result of President Benigno S. C. Aquino III’s state visit to China last week.

The first Ro-Ro project that received “favorable response” from Chinese officials is the China-Philippine Nautical Highway project, the department said.

“[Ro-Ro] facilities will be established between [sic] Guangdong Province and either Subic or Batangas port,” DoTC said.

“Under the Ro-Ro cooperation, local raw materials and semi-finished industrial goods will be loaded on containers and transported via the Ro-Ro between Guangdong and two local ports,” the statement read further.

The department noted that Guangdong is China’s manufacturing base, and that closer ties to it could result in more opportunities for the Philippines.

“The labor situation in China had tremendously changed over the last two decades. Their [sic] labor cost is now relatively expensive…that they now face labor supply problems. This presents a good opportunity for us particularly to claim the position of being the manufacturing base in the region,” Transportation Secretary Manuel A. Roxas II said in the statement.

Mr. Roxas accompanied the President last week.

The next project, the department said, is a Central Spine Nautical Highway project that will connect Manila to parts of the Visayas and Mindanao.

“[This] involves the construction and operation of an integrated transportation system combining Ro-Ro ferry port network and services with connecting new toll roads linking Manila, Panay, Negros, Cebu, Bohol, [and] Northern Mindanao,” DoTC said.

This announcement comes after the department late last month recommended cancellation of the P11.8-billion GMA Ro-Ro project, even as it did not specify how many of the planned 72 ports would be affected by the move.

In the same statement, Mr. Roxas also reiterated that bilateral talks are now ongoing for the “reconfiguration” of the North Rail project.

“The North Rail project is highly desirable, but the present contract is problematic,” Mr. Roxas said in the statement.

“This is the reason why a ‘reconfiguration’ of the project is being discussed,” he added.

“We are looking forward to the success of the talks so that the project can be reconfigured such that it satisfies Philippine procurement laws, proper [contract] bidding is undertaken and correct payment scheme is agreed with suppliers,” he continued.

“This will take a lot of time, but at least the condition has been set now.”

Mr. Roxas said further that the Chinese government has also expressed “openness” to extend credit lines to the Philippines to help finance these projects.

But he stressed in the same statement the need to come up with a clear costing and design of projects so that “China will have an idea how much they [sic] can finance…”
By: K. A. Martin
Source: Business World, Sept. 5, 2011
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