WITH MODESTO P. SA-ONOY
The controversy surrounding Bredco does not seem to end and this new one is just adding one more battlefront for Bredco.
In the past, Bredco has defended itself remarkably by utilizing the law to its advantage. Bredco’s lawyers can take a bow on that.
On the other hand, it has failed to secure public support precisely because of these legal battles, for while Bredco declares the port belongs to the City of Bácolod people don’t see it to belong to Bácolod. People believe Bácolod owns the port but the fact that Bacolod has to file a case to recover what it claims, and Bredco agrees to this claim, Bredco’s continued stay does not sit well with the public.
The candidacy of Renecito Novero is, in truth, being adversely affected by this public perception that Bredco is not giving justice to the city of what is due from the incomes of the port operation. This is easy enough to compute, but Bredco has succeeded in denying this benefit from the city. The income is estimated to run into over a hundred million pesos a year.
Bredco might have all the legal bases for all its arguments, but public perception is a different animal, uncontrolled, frivolous and intractable. In this regard, Bredco has failed and that failure puts it in constant controversy regardless of the validity of its statements. Credibility is fundamental in any business enterprise.
There are justifiable reasons, as cited by Bredco’s lawyers that the government should not compete with the business sector, but this is not an absolute rule. I will not go into this in detail but only to point out the fallacy of this premise because there are hundreds of instances where this concept does not apply.
For instance when private enterprise goes against or does not serve the public welfare, then government should compete because it is duty-bound to counterbalance private and public interest.
The case of Banago does not apply here because Bredco is doing fine with its services, except for two main complaints: the fees for entering the port and the double charge in the RORO. I will not discuss this matter for the moment. What is important only is that Bredco is serving the city, its businesses and its people.
The question of Bredco’s rental is a matter for the city and Bredco to resolve, although it would be excellent if Bredco pays higher because then the city and the people will fight on the side of Bredco against any competitor.
Atty. Jack Maalat has presented the Philippine Ports Authority Administrative Order No. 013 of 1977 to back Bredco’s claim that Banago should not develop because it will directly compete with Bredco. This is an excellent point, except for one fatal fact – this Order preceded Bredco’s port operation. In fact, at that time, Bredco was mostly under water.
Secondly, at the time of the Order, Banago had been in operation since 1936. Even during the war, and while fighting raged in Negros, Banago continued to operate.
This fact is lost in the present controversy. The Banago port is not being constructed, because it already exists and is just being improved, expanded, developed and provided with additional facilities.
In effect, Bredco was given by the City Bacolod the contract to reclaim and construct a city port to compete with Banago, which, at the time was a private port owned by Negros Navigation. It was the intent of the city to provide an alternative to Banago which was a bone of complaints for its high rates and monopoly.
This contract which was entered into in 1961, of course preceded the Order but Bredco began operation as a port only in 1996 although it had some small operation in the port that it sold.
The same Order discourages the government from competing with a private port, but it is a tricky order because it stabs the private port at the back. It says, as quoted in the newspapers, that “port users shall be encouraged to utilize existing port areas provided by the government.”
In other words, the Order which does not mandate but only discourages, was designed to give the government ports a boost; conversely, to discourages users from private ports.
What happens now that there are two government ports, granting that in truth, in fact and in payment of fees, the port is owned by Bácolod? How about for starters calling it Bacolod Port?
Banago’s development will result to the good of Bredco in the long term. Bredco has the advantage of distance. Remember that when Bredco began operation Banago lost out.
This development challenges Bredco and the visions of Atty. Sammy Palanca. It can entail expenses at the start, but I doubt if Banago can match Bredco, especially if the conflict with the city is resolved soon.*
back to top