By: Roy Stephen C. Canivel – Philippine Daily Inquirer / May 23, 2018

Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (Ceza) would need P5 billion to improve Port Irene, pointing to structural inefficiencies that keep the port from reaching its potential.

In a forum yesterday, Ceza Administrator and CEO Raul Lambino said that, despite the initial steps to modernize the port, there were still “gaps where new investments can be poured in.”

The port’s present condition shows a lot of room for improvement. For instance, its navigational canal is too shallow that it is unable to accommodate larger vessels.

To address this, Ceza has tapped Korean firm Fairbridge Overseas Development Inc. to do major dredging.

Lambino said the dredging could not be started immediately as the Korean firm still had to study the structures in the port, including a P5-billion breakwater that got damaged by a 2015 typhoon even before it was completed.

“In Port Irene, we would be needing at least to develop the wharf, new piers and do dredging. We are going to put up another breakwater and that’s another P5 billion,” he said. The breakwater project would bring to P10 billion the total funding required by Ceza.

Ceza is currently operating the port, even though Asia Pacific International Terminals Inc.—which is the concessionaire of the port—has a 25-year concession agreement since the 2000s.

He said Ceza had been reviewing the agreement, noting that the company had not done anything to improve the port.

“Right now, the port is underutilized because it’s not complete. There’s no long pier. The pier there is 180 meters, while it should be at least 300 meters to accommodate bigger vessels,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.

The development of the port, along with the development of the Cagayan North International Airport, are currently Ceza’s top priority, according to the official.

Ceza has formed a joint venture with Cagayan Land Corp. for the airport. Called the Cagayan Premium Development Venture, the company is currently in talks with various firms for the upgrade of the airport.