A South Korean company, through its Philippine subsidiary, has offered to undertake the expansion and modernization of Port Irene in Santa Ana, Cagayan, in a proposal to dredge the port’s harbor and reinforce its pier that would allow large cargo and cruise vessels to dock.
Secretary Raul L. Lambino, administrator and CEO of the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (Ceza), said the proposed expansion and modernization would be undertaken by Fairbridge Overseas Development-Philippines Inc., or Fodpi, the local subsidiary of a South Korean firm of the same name.
“This is a breakthrough proposal, for it is at no cost to the government,” Lambino said in news statement issued on Monday. “It will mark the beginning of the development of Port Irene to its full potential,” he added.
Lambino and Fodpi President Kim Myung-hwan have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) recently setting the scope of the project.
Port Irene, located in Cagayan’s northernmost tip along the Northern Pacific’s major international shipping lanes, is the jewel of the Cagayan Economic Zone and Freeport, but poor port conditions and inadequate infrastructure have set back its development.
The proposed modernization includes the dredging of the navigational channel, upgrading of existing piers and wharves and reinforcing the 1-kilometer concrete breakwater and repairing its storm-damaged portions.
Under the MOU, Fairbridge would get the sea sand dredged from the harbor and its periphery and use the harbor for its business.
Fairbridge planned to contract local labor for the manufacture of building materials made out of sea sand for its mass-housing project and for the importation and local sale of the product.
Since taking over as Ceza chief in July last year, Lambino has eyed the rehabilitation of Port Irene as the “key in realizing the freeport’s potential as a regional transhipment hub for goods in East Asia and the Northern Pacific.”
He had noted in his transition report that Port Irene has not operated at full capacity because its harbor is shallow and narrow.
Lambino earlier announced that Ceza had already finished the upgrades required by the Civilian Aviation Authority of the Philippines on the Cagayan North International Airport (CNIA) in Lal-lo, 45 minutes by car southwest of Port Irene.
CNIA received a few days ago its first commercial flight from Macau, a 100-seater Royal Air aircraft, and is expected to go into full operation next month.
A narrow-bodied aircraft like the A320 and B737 can now land on CNIA’s 2.1-kilometer runway.
“First, we opened the air link,” said Lambino. “Next is the seaport, and it will be bigger and better.”