SBMA signs business tie-up with Israeli port

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) has established an alliance with the Port of Eilat in Israel under an agreement signed during the historic four-day visit of President Rodrigo Duterte to the Jewish state.

SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma signed the memorandum of agreement with Eilat Port Company Ltd. CEO Gideon Golber on September 4 during a ceremony witnessed by President Duterte and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.

Eisma said the agreement for the promotion of an all-water route between Subic and Eilat, which is the only Israeli port on the Red Sea, “will open up doors in the area of port development and innovation between the two countries.”

“It will also serve to increase port traffic and revenue for Subic Bay, since trade routes for the movement of goods between Eilat and Subic will be firmly established,” she added.

Under the agreement, SBMA and Eilat Port Company Ltd. will cooperate to generate new shipping business by promoting the all-water route between Subic and Eilat, as well as to develop links to support trade and investment.

Specifically, the two parties will cooperate in the areas of marketing, data interchange, market studies, modernization and improvements, training, and technological exchange.

Eisma also said the alliance with Eilat will further cement Subic’s global standing as a sea port and hub for maritime trade.

According to Philippine Ambassador to Israel Nathaniel Imperial, it was Eilat’s Golber who proposed last April a partnership between Eilat and a Philippine port in order for the latter “to become the bridge of Israel to the rest of the Far East.”

Imperial then referred the offer to the SBMA chief last May, pointing out the SBMA “can work with the Eilat Port management to learn more about technological innovations of Israel, which ensure the efficient and professional services of the port to its international clients.”

The Port of Eilat, which is located at the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba, is mainly used for trading with Far East countries, as it allows vessels from Israel to reach the Indian Ocean without sailing through the Suez Canal. It is also Israel’s gateway to South Africa and Australia.

Imperial said Eilat Port was developed in 1965 and was privatized in 2013, with control going to American businessman Joseph Nakash, owner of Arkia Israeli Airlines, The Sitai boutique hotels, Jordache Enterprises, and Nakash Group of America.

About 60% of Israel’s vehicle imports from Japan, China, India, Thailand and Korea now enter through Eilat Port, he added.

President Duterte, who became the first sitting Philippine president to visit Israel, said the Philippines would seek a “robust relationship” with the Jewish state in areas of economic development, trade and investments, labor, as well as defense, security, and law enforcement.

The Subic-Eilat agreement was among the 11 memoranda of understanding, 3 memoranda of agreement, and 7 letters of intent signed during a forum attended by Duterte in Jerusalem last Tuesday.