By: Elijah Felice Rosales -May 22, 2018

THE Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (Ceza) needs P5 billion for the development of Port Irene that, if utilized to the fullest, can make the region a premier docking site for trade goods coming from East Asia.

In an interview with reporters on Tuesday, Ceza Administrator and CEO Raul L. Lambino said they are looking for a partner from the private sector that will invest on the development of Port Irene, Cagayan, which currently serves as an entry point for construction materials from China, South Korea and Vietnam. The largest investment by far on the seaport was the P5.4-billion breakwater rolled out by the previous administration.

“In Port Irene, the breakwater was put there by the previous administration—Ceza’s largest investment by far on that dock—amounting to P5.4 billion. We would be needing at least another P5 billion to develop the wharves, new piers and dredging on Port Irene,” Lambino said.

He added the Ceza is currently reviewing the master  plan and existing studies on Port Irene to identify what is needed to bring about the port’s full potential as a seaport.

Lambino said one thing is for sure: Port Irene’s docking site must be improved, its facilities must be enhanced and its base must be expanded to increase the port’s capacity.

According to him, Port Irene is underutilized because its pier is only about 180 meters in size. For it to be fully operational, it must be widened to at least 300 meters.

A South Korean firm in April offered to bankroll the expansion and modernization of Port Irene. Fairbridge Overseas Development Inc. expressed interest to develop Cagayan’s connectivity jewel in a bid to unlock the full potential of the seaport.

Fairbridge is looking to dredge Port Irene’s navigational channel, develop its existing piers and wharves and fortifying its breakwater, as well as repairing its storm-torn portions. Lambino and the South Korean firm’s President Kim Myung-hwan signed a memorandum of understanding drawing the scope of the project.

Apart from Port Irene, the Ceza chief said they are also in the process of fully utilizing the Cagayan North International Airport in Lal-lo.

“On the Cagayan North International Airport, we are also updating our master plan there,” he said. “We are thinking of putting additional taxiway, or another strip of runway to make it a truly world-class international airport that would cater the biggest available commercial planes.”

As of present, there are no direct flights yet to the airport, only chartered flights, according to Lambino. This is because the facility is still applying for certification to land direct flights. Planes headed to Lal-lo have to pass through licensed airports, such as those in Tuguegarao City, Laoag in Ilocos Norte and Clark in Pampanga.

The Ceza’s revenue for the first quarter also grew by 76.6 percent to P86 million, from P48 million during the same period last year. The economic zone operator gained higher collection from licensing fees, passport fees, processing fees, sewerage fees, rent income and seaport system fees.

Its total revenues from the previous year amounted to P234 million. The Ceza is working to make P283 million this year, according to Lambino.