SBMA sets P2.46 billion to rehabilitate Subic seaports

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) will prioritize the rehabilitation of piers and wharves in the Subic Bay Freeport Zone in order to bring to tip-top form the so-called heart and soul of this premier maritime logistics center.

Newly-appointed SBMA Chairperson and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma said in a media briefing on Wednesday that the Subic agency has allotted a budget of P2.46 billion to repair and further develop port facilities in Subic.

“The piers and wharves are undeniably the biggest assets of Subic Bay, and our sea port generates the biggest income among all the SBMA units,” Eisma said, pointing out that her administration will pursue the completion of the repair projects.

“We need to put these assets in top condition so that we can service more vessels and also get top returns for our investments,” she added.

The Subic Bay Freeport has a total of 15 piers and wharves that can serve various purposes from transshipment of containerized and break-bulk cargoes, fuels and lubricants, grains and fertilizer, as well as servicing vessels and passengers.

Aside from this, the port of Subic also offers key services like cargo handling, pilot and tugboat services, ship chandling, bunkering and tendering, ship agents, onboard repair, cargo survey, underwater survey, and vessel lay-up and line handling.

Eisma said that while Subic has its own airport, its seaport is the most viable facility to develop and earn from. “With the money the government is pouring into Clark today, Subic cannot hope to compete with its airport, so we have to prioritize development of our seaport,” she explained.

Eisma said that, in particular, the Alava Pier, which services military and passenger vessels in Subic, needs to be dredged and its piles strengthened in order to accommodate bigger cruise ships.

“We have concluded talks with some cruise liners and the Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. will dock in Subic starting next May, but we can’t bring in those with passenger capacity of up to 5,000 because our piers are not yet upgraded,” Eisma said.

She said that it was while attending the 2017 Asia Cruise Forum in Jeju, South Korea last August that she realized it was really necessary to rehabilitate Alava Pier to bring it up to par with global cruise standards.

Other than the repair of piers and wharves, the SBMA also plans to undertake major projects like the construction of the Magsaysay Bridge, which leads to the Freeport main gate; upgrading of facilities at the Subic Bay International Airport; concreting and repair of roads; port dredging; and building of the proposed SBMA-Olongapo Museum.

The Subic agency is also planning to build an SBMA Corporate Center to house the various SBMA offices that are now scattered among several US Navy-era buildings.

According to the proposed SBMA budget for 2018 that has already passed the Senate’s subcommittee on finance, other than the SBMA Corporate Center project which has a price tag of P3.2 billion, the repair of Subic piers and wharves will take up the bulk of the SBMA’s P3.548-billion infrastructure budget for 2018.

The repair of piers and wharves is estimated to cost P2.45 billion, while the other projects are pegged at P489.3 million for road concreting and repair; P390.7 million for the Magsaysay bridge; P83.38 million for port dredging; P80 million for the museum; and P45.4 million for upgrading of airport facilities. (Dante M. Salvana)