Pantao Port in Libon, Albay, which Gov. Joey Salceda pushed hard for when he was congressman is shrouded in controversy. It is deficient in design (its design capability to withstand waves is below top waves experienced in that area during strong typhoons) and there are charges of shoddy workmanship. It was heavily damaged by Typhoon Reming but it was recently repaired.
It was “inaugurated” by President Gloria Arroyo way back in 2005 yet it remains barely serviceable and practically nobody uses it. And the road connecting it to the national highway is not yet fully paved .Yet it has been declared even before construction that it is the new “regional” port in Bicol thereby dislodging Tabaco port.
But does the “title” hold any substance? Now, that is the crux of the matter. Pantao Port, in physical development, is not a major port. Its level is barely above that of a good municipal port. So many secondary ports have superior facilities than Pantao that there is no need to compare it to primary ports. Ideally, the level of regional ports should be equal to primary ports.
The port has no cargo-handling facilities befitting a primary port (who would bring it when before nobody uses Pantao anyway except for fishing boats and motor bancas to San Pascual, Masbate?). It does not have a container yard or cargo sheds. The port and the access road might not even be secure enough. And the access road is even funny because it has some challenging twists and climbs. It seems they really mean that tractor-trailers with container vans (that sometimes weigh up to 50 tons) should climb it. This is the only regional port in the Philippines I know that lies beyond a mountain range.
A passenger terminal and a back-up area were recently constructed but that is not the essential thing in a regional port. A regional port is entry/exit point of goods to and from abroad. Without cargo-handling facilities this is a misnomer like the Legazpi alternate international airport that has no Instrument Landing System (ILS).
What was the reason for developing Pantao Port? Gov. Salceda said it is equidistant from Camarines and Albay. Well, Tabaco is not badly placed either and it has access to Camarines Sur through the Tiwi-Sagnay road. I also heard the reason that the cement plant in Camalig, Albay would be nearer to a port. As if Tabaco and Legazpi ports are not nearer and with better roads.
I do not think shippers will be using Pantao Port as their gateway anytime soon.
Pantao Port is not even considered part of the Central Nautical Highway (CNH) of the Strong Republic Nautical Highway (SRNH) because it is too distant from the Visayas. [Anyway, those designations are no longer in use currently.]
In short it could just end up like a “port to nowhere”. It is not a regional port, hence, a fraud. Yet, paeans and hosannas have already been offered to it. To better cover its true genre, a white elephant, the favorite “pet” of politicians. [Update: It is really a “port to nowhere” if the current government’s definition is used which means the income is not enough to cover the operational expenses.]