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Why give away the goose that lays golden eggs?

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Sometime in March 2010, The Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) launched a coffee-table book captioned as “Bringing Development through PGMA Legacy Ports. In this book, it features The Roll on-Roll-off ports that were built during President Arroyo administration and also the historical background of the PPA.

The book aims to showcase and document the PPA accomplishments in carrying out the vision and determination of President Arroyo on port development. It focuses to the vision of pursuing the goal of uplifting the lives of poor people by providing them with the basic services on efficient, faster and affordable sea transport cost and connection, thus, the advent of the so-called Strong Republic Nautical Highway.

PPA takes pride in being one of the leading government entities that is allegedly mindful of its corporate social responsibility. It has provided infrastructure improvements and facilities, one of which, is the passenger terminal building (PTB).

Treat this piece as sequel to the previous issue on PPA-Zamboanga on the wind of change. The city port of Zamboanga has two existing passenger terminal facilities that cater to the need of providing safe and convenient passageway for outgoing passengers three decades past.

Modesty aside, this humble writer while an employee in the service of PPA had the opportune time to have served and designated as the first (PTS) passenger terminal shed supervisor tasked with the responsibility of formulating and implementing systems and procedures on the exit and embarkation of outgoing passengers passing through the PTB.

It is estimated that two million passengers, more or less, passing through the city’s government port every year. A big bulk of these passengers are from the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi including the two provinces of Zamboanga del Sur and del Norte. Day in and day out, we see throngs of passengers passing through the PTB paying a terminal fee of P 11.00. in the early 80’s, the passenger terminal fee started with minimal rate of P 2.00 but gradually increased due to rising and high cost of maintenance and operation of the PTB.

Today, PTB apparently needs refurbishment and improvement of its ventilation. PPA is capable of the renovation and improvement of the ventilation inside the PTB and seat accommodation as well as rest rooms. In fact, the improvement of the PTB is included in the plans and programs of PPA-PMO Zamboanga. As soon as major renovation and improvement are in place, probably it justifies the proposal to increase the rate of the passenger terminal fee to as much as P 20.00. With 1.5 million outgoing passengers assuming that would pass through the PTB and at the rate of P 20.00 per passenger terminal fee, the PPA-Port of Zamboanga stands to earn P 30 million pesos yearly. This revenue will be a contributory factor in the reclassification of the port into Class A or Class B government port. For the year 2010, if the feedback is true, the PTB has generated an income of nearly P 14 millions. It is one good and attractive reason why private entrepreneurs from Metro Manila are keen and enthusiastic to take over the operation and management of this passenger facility through the help of some alleged PPA influential high ranking officials in the Head Office.

There is a plan now being considered as an option to grant the transfer of the operation and management of the PTB earning for PPA-Zamboanga substantial amount of income to private entrepreneurs under the concept of public – private partnership scheme. The plan will pave the way for private investors from Metro Manila to operate the passenger terminal building owned by the Philippine Ports Authority. In short, privatization of a government facility earning a viable source of revenue for PPA. The devolution of this PTB facility existing for more than three decades is senseless and to my mind, an act of stupidity and cruelty to the stout-hearted men and women of the PPA-PMO Zamboanga who had sacrificed for so many years to have this facility a legacy to the people in this region.

PPA-PMO Zamboanga will not only stand to lose substantial amount of earnings but also displacement of some employees. It is unthinkable why PMO-Zamboanga give away or kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. In a brief talk with the port manager in his office the other day, he confirmed the plan to privatize the PTB facility, the transfer of its operation and management to private sector, short of saying, that he favors the devolution. In fact, he gave some points of justifications.

Some if not many employees in the port of Zamboanga are interfosing objection on the ground that private investors not from this city but Metro Manila would enjoy the luxury of huge profit. Whoever thought of the plan to privatize the PTB facility has a sick mind. Why give away such big earnings to private persons who have not sacrificed in building up the port of Zamboanga for the last three decades. And give the privilege to operate the facility and earn profits and enrich themselves. Oh! My gosh, what a crazy idea. It would be proper and appropriate if PPA give the operation of the PTB to the employees cooperative. It would also provide them additional benefits and earnings to upgrade their standard of living and lifestyle. A justifiable compromise, think of it.

Private investors will always think of their returns on investment such as profit not on the improvement of service to its clienteles. It would be highly sensible and rational to transfer the operation and management of the PTB to the employee credit union or their existing cooperative in the PMO. A laudable move worth its salt.

This column is calling upon the intervention of the two representatives of this city and other lawmakers of this region in Congress, Hon. Erbie Fabian and Deputy Speaker Ma. Isabelle Climaco to help stop PPA high management hierarchy in the transfer and operation of the PPA facility and its privatization. PPA is pushing the people in this region down the river. In the same vein, call upon the local officials and legislative councils of the island provinces of Basilan, Sula and Tawi-Tawi to pass resolutions interposing objection to the devolution of this PPA facility. Possibly, take the initiative to seek the help of P-Noy at Malacañang Palace by the Pasig River. Take it or leave it. Ok.

Will keep the people of this region posted on this brewing issue on the privatization of the facilities here at the PPA Port of Zamboanga. GODSPEED and hopefully, we succeed.

By Peryasser Lahaman




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