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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Open new but ‘idle’ port

MAGSAYSAY, Occidental Mindoro—Islanders here, through their local leaders, are seeking the assistance of President Benigno S. Aquino III to open the brand-new, but idle P400-million seaport to “bring about more developments” to this sleepy town south of Mindoro Island.

Because of its closure, development projects, such as the drilling and exploration work for the vast natural gas fields of the island to solve the problem of a nationwide power shortage, is being delayed and derailed by some local government officials and entities opposed to the port operation, a former local official observed.

The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) built the Sta. Teresa port, in Bgy. Sta. Teresa, this municipality, in October, 2009 and completed in August, 2011 at a cost of P383,237,572.70.

The DOTC has transferred control of the port to Magsaysay municipal government but the latter could not operate it because only a portion of the 12-kilometer access road is concreted, according to Mayor Eleonor Barrera Fajardo.

“The completion of the said road is very important as it will expedite travel to and from the port,” Fajardo reported to Gov. Mario Gene Mendiola who ordered the concreting of portions of the access road leading to Bgy. Sta. Teresa.

Since its completion in 2011, the Sta. Teresa seaport remains not operational since the provincial government, then under former Occidental Mindoro governor (now congresswoman) Josephine Ramirez-Sato, failed to act on the request of the Magsaysay municipal government to improve the 12-kilometer access road that will connect the port to the national road.

“The access road belongs to the Occidental Mindoro provincial government that its funding, widening and concreting and other kinds of improvement must be shouldered by the provincial government,” Fajardo said.

“Our municipality is a recipient of a port project that has remained idle up to this moment. It is my belief that if it becomes operational, it could bring about more developments as this would trigger business opportunities and jobs generation for our people,” the lady mayor said.

“The provincial government then refused to act on our request to widen and concrete the access road because we’re not their political allies,” says the wheelchair-bound former Magsaysay Mayor Marleo Barrera.

The former mayor initiated the construction of the Sta. Teresa port to then Congresswoman Amelita C. Villarosa, a staunch political ally of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

“I saw the potential of constructing of a big port in Sta. Teresa because it is very near to the West Philippine Sea, an international sealane, that will give big economic opportunities not only to our small town of Magsaysay but to the whole province of Occidental Mindoro,” Barrera explained.

Barrera is assisting her younger sister, the incumbent Mayor Fajardo, in seeking help from President Aquino to open the port since two big international companies, the Pitkin Petroleum PLC of London, and the Indonesian company PT Citra Graha Tbk, expressed their intention to use and do business with the Sta. Teresa port.

Pitkin Petroleum PLC, through its legal manager, Arturo Maulion, wrote the Department of Energy that it intends to use the Sta. Teresa port “In relation to our Progreso drilling campaign in Bgy. San Isidro, San Jose, Occidental Mindoro (Service Contract 53), for our rig and associated equipment materials mobilization.”

Zenaida Monzada, of the Department of Energy, endorsed Pitkin’s letter-request to the Philippine Ports Authority, through PPA General Manager Juan Sta. Ana, because the request for assistance is timely since expeditious mobilization of the drilling rig and all equipment materials is needed for the project.

 “The drilling activity is a national project which is necessary to determine the presence of natural gas that will be used as fuel for the power requirement of the island province,” she said.

 “The drilling operation for natural gas by Pitkin Petroleum cannot be undertaken because Sta. Teresa seaport remains closed and the company cannot land their heavy and drilling equipment,” Barrera said.

 “Especially this summer, the idle port is also ideal not only for the tourism industry of Magsaysay and the province of Occidental Mindoro, but of the whole country, because it is strategically located to cater to incoming and outgoing tourists from Manila, Coron, Boracay, and other places in Palawan and the Visayas and Mindanao,” he stressed.

The former Magsaysay mayor explained that “of all the seaports in Occidental Mindoro, the one here in Sta. Teresa is the most ideal and strategic because it is deep, unsilted and protected by two natural barriers, the Ilin Island and the Ambulong Island, the reason why it is singled out by Pitkin Petroleum PLC to use it for their day-to-day operations.”

 “There are no appropriate ports in Occidental Mindoro than the Sta. Teresa seaport in Magsaysay,” Barrera said.

The Indonesian company, PT Cipaganti Citra Graha Tbk, has offered to invest, operate and manage the operation of the Sta. Teresa seaport since the local government unit has “no experience and capability to directly manage, operate and maintain the said port facility.”

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