Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Maguindanao gets a freeport

D. T. Wee
BusinessWorld
http://www.bworldonline.com/main/content.php?id=7826

ZAMBOANGA CITY -- Polloc Port in Maguindanao has been declared a freeport and special economic zone by the government of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Ali G. Macabalang, the region’s Bureau of Public Information chief, said the declaration was made last Monday by ARMM Acting Governor Ansaruddin A. Adiong.

Mr. Macabalang said ARMM will initially spend P15 million to rehabilitate port facilities.

"We are returning back the lost glory of Polloc Port. Being a freeport, there will be no taxes to be imposed on shipping companies [servicing the ports] and would-be investors," he said in a phone interview. "Tax holidays, capital equipment incentives, exemption from real property and local taxes, and an attractive build-operate and transfer scheme await investors."

He said top ARMM officials and heads of over a dozen foreign donor-institutions, including the World Bank, met at the EDSA Shangri-La Manila in Madaluyong City on Monday morning to discuss possible grants and loans for the port and the operation of the special economic zone.

In a statement, Ishak Mastura, chairman of the ARMM Board of Investment, said the long-awaited proclamation of Polloc as a freeport should help spur economic activity. Mr. Mastura, who was then the ARMM’s Trade and Industry regional secretary, started the move to declare Polloc Port as a regional economic zone and a freeport during the first ARMM Business Congress in 2003.

Polloc Port manager Harry Mohammad had said that Polloc Port used to get an average of 15 ship calls a month, but that the number has dwindled to about five a month due to frequent reports of hostilities in the province.

Built by the Korean Nam Kwang Construction, Ltd., Polloc Port started to operate under the Marcos administration with P150-million funding from the Asian Development Bank.

Mr. Macabalang said the port has roughly 1,500 linear meters that can accommodate all types of inter-island ferries, huge cargo vessels, and international cruise ships, as well as more than 5,000 hectares of land for industrial facilities.

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