A ship carrying corn imported from Indonesia by a local cornstarch manufacturer is berthed at the Polloc Port in Maguindanao. John Unson, file
Piracy in seas around this province and in Tawi-Tawi is hurting the Polloc Port in Maguindanao, Asia’s trading gateway to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Lawyer Ishak Mastura, chairman of ARMM’s Regional Board of Investments, on Friday said he is bothered by the suspension of this year’s supposed expansion of operations by foreign shipping companies to the Polloc Port over security issues.
The island provinces of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi and Maguindanao, which is located in central Mindanao, are component provinces of ARMM.
“Piracy in the Sulu seas is stifling our international trade activities, causing revenue losses for the ARMM government, which operates the Polloc Port," Mastura told The STAR Friday.
The office of ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman and the region’s Department of Public Works and Highways spent P150 million, drawn from the region’s yearly infrastructure subsidy from the national government, in improving the Polloc Port in the past three years.
The port management has remitted to the national coffer, through ARMM’s treasury, more than P300 million in revenues collected during the period.
Hexsan Mabang, port administrator, on Friday said international firms that were to connect the facility to seaports abroad starting this year balked from proceeding with their plans due to piracy threats.
“Obviously, they were threatened. I hope the situation will soon improve, improve sooner than expected,” Mabang said.
He said large shipments of industrial supplies from Singapore and other Asian states were held by suppliers, whose chartered boats are to fare through hostile routes in the Sulu seas, within easy reach of the Abu Sayyaf group.
The Abu Sayyaf, boasting loyalty to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, is using Sulu to hold abducted boat crew as well as merchants and tourists snatched from nearby provinces and from island resorts in Malaysia.
Just this week, gunmen attacked the Vietnamese cargo ship Giang Hai in the Sulu seas, about 20 nautical miles off Pearl Bank in Tawi-Tawi, and snatched seven crew members of different nationalities.
The vessel was to deliver 4,500 tons of cement from Vietnam to the Polloc Port, located in Parang town in the first district of Maguindanao.
Mabang said a Singapore-based shipper of wood chips needed to run a bio-mass power facility for a big cornstarch factory in Maguindanao has cancelled its shipment after the incident.
He said owners of shipping companies abroad earlier suspended planned maiden voyages to the Polloc Port in late 2016 and in January, scared by possible attacks by pirates in the Sulu seas.
“We have a plan to hold a security dialogue among local contacts of the affected foreign shipping companies, representatives from the embassies of Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia and Brunei and officials from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to discuss the problem,” Mabang said.