SBMA inks US tie-ups for Subic port expansion

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — Working overtime to realize further development and expansion of the Port of Subic, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) is now networking with various ports in the United States to gain strategic knowledge and best practices for local application.

In a meeting with port officials in Los Angeles and Virginia Beach during a Philippine trade mission in the United States last month, SBMA Chairman and Administrator discussed Subic’s port expansion plans and business potentials, as well as the necessary upgrades to make Subic a global maritime trade player.

SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma joins other members of the Philippine trade delegation to the United States at the Port of Los Angeles.

“We’re definitely moving seriously now into the expansion and development mode for the Port of Subic because this is what Subic Bay is all about—global maritime business,” Eisma explained.
SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma, along with other members of the Philippine trade delegation to the United States, observes shipping activities at the busy Los Angeles port complex.

“We may have the most strategic location and we may have the best potential in the region, but if our assets remained underdeveloped and underutilized, we’d end up zero just the same. So this is very, very important for Subic—it must start now, and it must be completed within just a few years,” she added.

Eisma said that in partnership with sister-ports, Subic will be developing a workable plan and a realizable timetable.

“Along this line, I have signed last month a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with John Reinhart, the CEO of Virginia Port Authority, for us to share best practices both in port development and trade promotion,” the SBMA official said.

“Likewise, we would be signing in March 2018 a similar agreement with the Los Angeles Port Authority (LAPA), so that we can learn technical expertise, particularly in break-bulk operation and cruise ship terminal operation,” Eisma added.

Eisma said that Jim MacLellan, who is LAPA Trade Development Director, has recommended to maximize Subic’s potential to be the next cruise ship playground in the ASEAN region, not only by increasing cruise ship arrival and port revenues, but also by developing downstream industries like arts and crafts, culture, music and related industries to promote a sustainable cruise tourism program.

She said that a direct port-to-port service route from the Port of Los Angeles to Subic Bay Freeport has also been discussed. This is being considered to cater to container port traffic demand between the West Coast and the Philippines, as well as increase efficiency and lower the cost of shipping.

Eisma added that the consolidation of cargoes in the West Coast is being considered with the Port of Subic Bay emerging as the possible gateway and transhipment point in the Philippines.

Eisma also said that the plan by SBMA and the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) to draft and integrate their master plans for the next phase of development of the Subic-Clark Economic Corridor “fits nicely in the overall design for Subic port.”

Other port-related developments from the November trade mission to the United States include the proposed use of the Port of Subic for the distribution of agricultural products.

According to SBMA Port Marketing Manager Ronnie Yambao, who joined Eisma in the trade mission, a Mexican company supplying avocado to Japan would like to use Subic’s proximity to Japan as a unique selling proposition.

Yambao added that there was also a proposal to use Subic for cacao farming and production and for eventual distribution worldwide, as well as for the shipment of US-bound commodities produced by manufacturers based in Palawan and Bicol.

Yambao added that the plan by Mober, the latest mobile app-enabled, on-demand cargo-delivery company, to launch its service in Subic Bay in June 2018 would further increase the attractiveness of Subic as a transhipment and distribution hub. (Dante M. Salvana)