Manila Via New World-Class Terminal: New North Port Passenger Terminal Complex Now Ready for 3 Million Passengers
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - November 17, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines turns a new leaf in its noteworthy maritime history as Manila now has the capacity to welcome some three million visitors annually at the newly launched North Port Passenger Terminal Complex (PTC).

Spurring opportunities in commerce and strengthening Manila as the country’s premier tourism destination, the most modern passenger hub rises as the city’s newest icon.

The Manila North Harbor is the busiest domestic port in the country. It currently serves close to one million passengers of major passenger shipping line operators 2GO Group, Inc. and Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corporation annually. Its modernization, through port operator Manila North Harbour Port, Inc. (MNHPI), catapults the seaport to fully achieve its potential.

The maiden port call of MV SuperStar Aquarius last November 2 illustrates the port’s fresh capabilities to welcome tourists aboard mammoth international luxury cruise liners. SuperStar Aquarius is a 51,300 gross tonner from the fleet of Asia Pacific’s largest international cruise operator, Star Cruises.

SuperStar Aquarius glided into the port that stately night in such timely fashion. Weeks before that, festivities  took place at the harbor. MNHPI hosted the formal launch rites last October 9 to open the new terminal complex.

MNHPI Management, led by its Chairman Dr. Michael Romero, also graciously welcomed President Benigno Simeon Aquino III on his visit and inspection of the complex last October 31 as part of the government’s preparations for the rush of holiday travelers observing All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.

Thus, on the bright and sunny morning of November 3, the welcome reception hosted on board the vessel’s Stardust Lounge turned out to be the perfect occasion to present fitting accolades for this historic call with a brand spanking new terminal to boot.

Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) port manager Clarissa Ignacio, noted in her speech, “It is indeed, a great honor that the Manila North Harbor has been chosen to be the initial (Philippine) port of destination of Superstar Aquarius.  Its maiden call marks a major milestone for North Harbor as it is the first ever foreign cruise vessel that has docked in our port.”

“What makes it more memorable is the fact that it has arrived at a time when our modern passenger terminal building has just been newly inaugurated and modernization of the port is being undertaken by our terminal operator, the Manila North Harbour Port, Inc.”

She likewise stated the agency’s full commitment to support cruise shipping services in the Philippines and outlined plans involving port development programs covering the ports of Puerto Princesa, Currimao in Ilocos Norte and Catagbacan in Bohol province, among others.

On the part of the Department of Tourism, which was represented in the welcome rites by Director Maria Corazon Jorda-Apo of the Market Development Group, the arrival of SuperStar Aquarius certainly creates greater awareness for the country as a cruise destination.

Recognizing Star Cruises as one of the world’s largest cruise operators, Director Jorda-Apo said, “The Philippines is very fortunate to be part of the expansion plan of its cruise line in the region…We have recognized cruising as an important segment in the travel industry, the fastest-growing segment nowadays.” She cited that as the country seeks to be known as an important cruise destination, it also wants to stamp its mark as an important source and supplier of manpower for cruise ships.

Flordeliza Villasenor, director of Manila Tourism and Cultural Affairs Bureau, reiterated the City Government of Manila’s appreciation of the international brand of passenger services offered at the North Port through the passenger terminal complex. Villasenor said that with a seaport like the North Port, Manila strengthens its sterling place as a premier tourism destination in the country.

Michael Hackman, Star Cruises Philippines senior vice-president, was joined in the lively reception by vessel officials led by Captain Carl Nilermark, Atty. Reginaldo A. Oben, chairman and president of Wallem Philippines Shipping, Inc. and candidates of Miss Resorts World Manila.

Hackman gave a special tribute to the 468 Filipino members of the Superstar Aquarius’ 1,100-strong crew in the voyage amid grateful cheering from the audience.

Dr. Romero noted that the harbor had earlier seen the glory of the galleon trade starting in the 16th century. After the port’s turnover to the new Philippine government by the US military after World War II, it became the country’s busiest domestic cargo transshipment and passenger hub.

With changes sweeping through major Asian cities that have thriving harbor commerce, Dr. Romero stated that MNHPI was most inspired as it went about its task of modernizing the port and building the sprawling terminal complex. Partnering with diversified conglomerate San Miguel Corporation (SMC) through subsidiary Petron Corporation, Dr. Romero said that MNHPI is in full swing in its vision to modernize and develop the port into a premier maritime hub, with the new passenger terminal as the centerpiece.

Dr. Romero said, “We cite the vital role of Ramon Ang, who shared our vision for this historic port. At the very onset of the partnership, it was clear with Mr. Ang that our countrymen needed the best possible service at this prime domestic seaport.” Ang, president and COO of SMC, which has significant stakes in airports, telecoms and power, aside from the food and beverage business, is also the Chairman and CEO of Petron.  SMC group’s presence in MNHPI is aligned with Petron’s vision of developing strategic alliances to pursue growth and opportunities.

The construction of the passenger hub, covering some 12,000 square meters, started in the first quarter of 2012. It now sports a sleek glass and steel main structure and a waiting concourse.

As Dr. Romero addressed the guests at Stardust Lounge,  pre-boarding requirements of passengers who were joining the cruise from Manila were being processed at the terminal by trained personnel using up-to-date screening and X-ray facilities in a conducive environment —well-lit, safe and comfortable. Excited passengers entering the terminal also had a ready look at the mammoth liner from the panoramic windows.

Back at Stardust Lounge, toasting to more success and exchanging of voyage mementos were taking place among the guests by the end of the ceremonies, all leading to the new chapter of the North Port in Philippine maritime history.

Indeed, the North Port Passenger Terminal Complex rises as the country’s newest world-class hub.    —with report by Luigi Maipid


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