Government seeks private partners to build Manila cruise terminal

GOVERNMENT tourism agencies are seeking private-sector investors to help construct a cruise port and terminal in Manila.

This developed as the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (Tieza), the Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) formally signed on October 10 a memorandum of agreement (MOA) to craft a feasibility study and master plan for the development and operation of a cruise port on CCP property. The Tieza is a government-owned and -controlled corporation under the DOT tasked with developing tourism infrastructure, as well as developing and managing tourism-enterprise zones and government-owned tourism properties. In an e-mail to the BusinessMirror,Tieza COO Pocholo  Paragas said: “We will align with the ‘Build, Build, Build’ program of the Duterte administration and open ourselves to both local and foreign partnerships [in constructing the cruise port].” He said he envisions a state-of-the-art cruise port, which will feature a seafood market as well as various concessions.

Under the National Tourism Development Plan for 2016-2022, the Duterte administration seeks to develop an “international cruise port and marina in Manila”. It also targets the number of cruise visitors to reach 456,164 via 402 ship calls by 2022, from a projected 117,000 visitors via 105 port calls in 2017.

Tieza is eyeing the reclaimed area of Manila Bay near the Philippine Senate, which is owned by the CCP, as the site of the Manila cruise port. “Said location was confirmed by cruise-line operators as an ideal location due to its
accessibility to major tourist attractions in Metro Manila and the environs,” Paragas said. At present, the Tieza and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) are already undertaking technical studies within the reclaimed area to further evaluate its suitability for the project.

But Paragas noted that “alternative sites, such as the [Pagcor] Entertainment City coastal areas, which could attract private-sector investments will, likewise, be considered.” He also underscored that “a dedicated cruise port shall enable the city to be a hub for fly-and-cruise programs”.

In the absence of private-sector investors, however, the project “can be a sole government undertaking, if the DPWH is willing to finance it”, said the Tieza chief. But he stressed, “We are inclined to partner with the private sector on the construction since this is a huge undertaking. Moreover, the cruise port will also include land- side development, such as concession areas, which should be funded by the private sector.”

At present, the Tieza is creating a technical working group with the DOT and the CCP to manage the conduct of the feasibility study and master-planning exercise. The Tieza chief estimated that the feasibility study will take about 18 months to complete “from the notice of proceed for the winning consultant”. Tieza has targeted the completion of the Manila cruise port “before end of term of President Duterte”.

The DOT has said international cruise calls to the Philippines have been growing at an average of some 28 percent over the past years, from 56 calls in 2014 to 72 calls in 2016. The rise in port calls to an estimated 105 is due to the designation of Manila as a home port by Star Cruises, which its Superstar Virgo serviced from March 19 to May 23, for its Asean cruise promotion. The cruise took passengers from Manila to Hong Kong, passing by Laoag and Taiwan.

The DOT has expressed confidence that more international cruise operators will be committed to bring in more cruise passengers to the country with the construction of the Manila Cruise Port Terminal.

According to the Tieza, the scope of its MOA with the CCP and the DOT include the following: due diligence investigation; preliminary engineering designs with cost estimates and program of work; preparation bidding/transaction documents; technical and administrative assistance; master plan as tourism-enterprise zone; and technical assistance in the securing of an environmental compliance certificate.


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