By Ellson Quismorio and Danny Estacio
The Philippines is one ambitious project away from redefining its place and self-perception in the South China Sea — and it’s staring us right in the face.
That project is Mayor Erwin Caralian’s proposed a 300-hectare reclamation and development project with Mega Pacific Victory Development Corporation (MPVC) in the coastal town of Gumaca in Quezon.
Potentially, the most impactful part of this endeavor is the Quezon International Seaport, which is envisioned to occupy at least one-sixth of the area to be reclaimed.
“This one will be the launching pad of all future delivery, transfers, import, and export of both raw materials and finished products,” Mauro Centeno, Mega Pacific Victory president and CEO, said.
Centeno pictured the Philippines as the world’s “gateway to Asia in the South China Sea,” which is a radical mindset change from what others may have on the country’s “lowly” standing when compared to the economic giants in the region.
But one could say that the Quezon International Seaport’s establishment is simply taking advantage of the Philippines’ most immovable yet overlooked asset — its strategic location.
It’s been a missed opportunity so far. An estimated one-third of global shipping transits the South China Sea, and in 2016 it was estimated that $3.37 trillion in world trade passed through that portion of the Pacific. The Philippines, despite the gift of its location, is not even among the top 10 exporters in terms of product value.
These were China, $874 billion; South Korea, $249 B; Singapore, $214 B; Thailand, $170 B; Vietnam, $158 B; Japan, $141 B; Hong Kong, $140 B; Indonesia $121 B; Germany, $117 B; and Malaysia, $106 B.
Most modern PH port
Carrying a price tag of $300 million (roughly P15.9-billion), the Quezon International Seaport will “definitely be more modern than any port in existence in the country,” Centeno vowed.
Initial designs showed that the 50-hectare seaport will have seven hulking container van cranes, although more can be added as the investors see fit.
“We need a new and bigger port that could cater to the future needs of the Philippine economy. Since we’re positioning ourselves as the gateway, it (seaport) will be among the first to be finished,” the company president said.
“Wala pang ganito sa south (There’s nothing like this in the south),” underscored Centeno.
“My town is the financial and business district and also the cultural and heritage center in the Fourth District of Quezon,” Mayor Caralian noted with much pride as if his town of Gumaca had a birthright to host Asia’s port to the world.
As he spoke, the mayor held in his hand the blueprint for the project and said the Provincial Development Council approved a resolution endorsing it to the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) and the Regional Development Council (RDC) in CALABARZON (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon).
“We first thought of the project in 2011, pero ngayon lang umaayon yung sitwasyon (it is only now that the situation is favorable). It is also in line with federalism,” Centeno said, referring to one of the current administration’s top advocacies which is “Build, Build, Build.”
Why Gumaca? Why not
But why Gumaca, though? Aside from easy access to the Pacific Ocean, Centeno said the area is protected by an isthmus that serves as a natural breakwater or barrier against tsunamis.
The potential for development in Quezon, the seventh largest province in the Philippines, is also high. If pursued, the province’s export potential is raised along with that of the Bicol region’s as well as Mindanao’s.
“Our plan is also in line with the national government program of creating new economic centers in the province, aiming of decongesting Metro Manila,” said Mayor Caralian, adding that the provincial government is on board.
He said the project to expand the coastal road that will service the entire length of Quezon’s coast is even the idea of Quezon Governor David C. Suarez, who vowed support before the Provincial Development Council.
The mayor added that future reclamation is located strategically in the urban influence barangays of Rosario, Lagyo, Buensoceso, Penafrancia, San Diego, Poblacion, and Tabing Dagat and other portions of Lamon Bay Area.
Caralian told in the Manila Bulletin, that as early as now, many investors have sent their interest in the project, fueling his optimism of realizing it sooner than he had earlier thought.
Earlier this week, he confirmed that the Municipal Council has already passed a resolution reclaiming the first 20 hectares for the initial stage of the project.