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Korea to undertake study on proposed international port in Leyte

TACLOBAN CITY, March 9 (PNA) -- The Korean government will proceed with the conduct of a feasibility study next month for the development of a transhipment hub in nearby Babatngon town in Leyte province.

Oliver Cam, Regional Development Council (RDC) private sector representative for business, said officials of the Korean Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs are interested in pursuing the study after inspecting the Babatngon port last week.

“Koreans want to transform the Babatngon wharf into an internationally competitive port. The plan is to develop an economic zone attached to the port,” said Cam, one of the RDC members who accompanied the visiting Korean transport ministry officials.

Babatngon town is located in the northern part of Leyte Island and along the shore of Carigara Bay. It is just 22 km. north of this city.

The town’s port has been eyed by experts as a regional hub considering the difficulty for big ships to reach the regional capital. Large Tacloban-bound vessels have to traverse the narrow San Juanico Strait that separates Samar and Leyte Islands to reach the regional center.

The feasibility study will run from April to October this year. The costs, estimated between PHP2 million and PHP15 million, will be covered by grants from the Korean government, according to Cam.

The development will be carried out through public-private partnership and a joint venture between Korean and Filipino investors.

The recent visit of Korean officials is in response to the RDC endorsement of the proposal for the conduct of the feasibility study and master plan of the Babatngon port as Eastern Visayas' regional transhipment hub.

The proposal, together with the RDC resolution, will be forwarded to the Department of Transportation as supporting documents for the Philippine government's request for Korean government support for the conduct of the feasibility study and master plan of Babatngon Port.

“They are willing to conduct the study even without a formal letter request from the Philippine government,” Cam added.

The proposed port development will also be a part of the Tacloban North Agro-Industrial Economic Zone.

Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Eastern Visayas regional director Edgar Tabacon said that as part of long-term development, the government will build a bridge that will connect Babatngon town and Sta. Rita, Samar.

The proposed bridge will be an alternative to the San Juanico Bridge, the only structure that links Leyte and the Samar Islands.

“In anticipation of heavy traffic in the future, we will also widen the Tacloban-Babatngon Road from two lanes to six lanes,” Tabacon said.

The proposed port development is expected to bring more economic opportunities to the northern part of the city, the relocation sites for more than 14,000 families displaced by super typhoon Yolanda in 2013. (PNA)

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