MANILA, Philippines – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Indonesian President Joko Widodo are set to inaugurate on Sunday, April 30, a new shipping route from the Philippine cities of Davao and General Santos to Bitung, Indonesia.
An M/V Super Shuttle Roll-on Roll-off (RoRo) ferry service with a 500 TEU capacity (twenty foot equivalent units), operated by the Asian Marine Tranposrt System, will be the first to set sail along the new route starting Sunday, and will provide weekly services along the channel.
Duterte and Widodo will grace the opening ceremonies in Davao City after attending the 30th ASEAN Summit in Manila on Saturday, April 29.
The new shipping route from the Philippines to Indonesia is expected to boost trade and relations between the two countries, the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) said in a press release Friday, April 28.
“Sea linkage within the EAGA [East ASEAN Growth Area] sub-region is crucial in strengthening trade relations among its member countries since it supports the achievement of the goals of the other EAGA pillars such agribusiness, tourism, and socio-cultural and education,” said Secretary Datu Abul Khayr Alonto, chairman of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) and Philippine signing minister for the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).
Arturo Boncato Jr., assitant secretary of the Philipine Department of Trade and Industry, added the RoRo service is one of the priority projects of the BIMP-EAGA connectivity group as the new route provides a faster and cheaper channel for the trading of goods compared to the usual Manila to Jakarta to Bitung route.
According to a statement released by MinDA, the Davao to Bitung route will take about one day and half (excluding port stay) as compared to the previous route, which takes about 3 to 5 weeks of shipping time.
The Davao City to Bitung route is also expected to save up to P74,000 per TEU.
Apart from cost-efficiency, the new route also improves competitiveness for products from the Mindanao region, which has been gaining interest in the sub-region.
“The route will provide a more efficient access for local businessmen to engage trading with Indonesian counterparts,” Boncato said.
Goods to be shipped from Mindanao include animal feeds, fertilizer, construction materials, ice cream products, poultry (halal), fresh fruits, and synthetics. Previous media releases from MinDA also included products such as matured coconut, copra, corn, feed ingredients, lumber, cement, high value crops, vegetables, meat, peanuts, aqua products, charcoal, soya, coffee beans, and sugar.
Alonto stressed the necessity of maritime transport in the sub-region’s development and added the Philippines will continue to push for the opening of sea routes within BIMP-EAGA.
“We are calling on and encouraging key industry and business players and traders to participate in this initiative and to take advantage of the business opportunities and benefits that this new route will provide,” said Alonto.
He added that support from the private sector in the Philippines is crucial to sustaining the project.
Boncato said that the sustainability of the new route and declaration of Bitung as an international port is feasible as the Indonesian government has expressed its full support to the opening and operation of the trade and maritime link.
While the new route provides grater access for local businesses to engage in international trade, it may also promote development in tourism, the establishments of direct linkages between countries in the sub-region, and the increase in investment inflows.
The new Davao to Bitung route was selected as a pilot area for RoRo operations within BIMP-EAGA through a feasibility study conducted in 2012 by the Japan International Cooperation.
The study also highlighted the possibility of dedicating freight services to the route once shipping and service requirements are in place.
Meanwhile, another study conducted in 2010 by the Research Education and Instituional Development Foundation through the US Agency for International Development revealed the North Sulawesi to Mindanao route as another strong potential geographic link for trade and commerce between the Philippines and Indonesia.
The new Davao City to Bitung shipping route within EAGA is the Philippine government’s maiden accomplishment under its ASEAN chairmanship this year. –Rappler.com