Jakarta, April 30, 2017 (Antara) - A Roll on-Roll off (Ro-Ro) ferry service to be officially launch by President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) and President Rodrigo Duterte in Davao, the southern Philippines, on April 30, is to improve connectivity between the two neighboring countries.
The Ro-Ro shipping service connecting Davao and General Santos in the Philippines with Bitung in Indonesia's North Sulawesi Province, will provide faster and cheaper transportation services for people and goods.
Better connectivity between Indonesia and the Philippines is part of the development agenda of boosting connectivity in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), that groups Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei Darussalam, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.
Prior to the inauguration of the new shipping service, Indonesia's Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi signed a joint declaration with his Filipino counterpart Arthur P. Tugade on boosting sea connectivity.
The signing of the declaration was witnessed by President Jokowi and President Duterte during the Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines-East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) Summit in Manila, the Philippines on April 28.
In fact, the route is part of the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines-EAGA vision for 2025, with the goal to develop the sub-region in seven to 10 years.
Minister Sumadi stated that the implementation of the sea connectivity project is important to Indonesia, as it will help to establish new sea and trade routes.
"The connectivity will offer a huge opportunity for both countries in terms of boosting economy, reducing travel time, as well as offering higher potential to increase trade," Minister Sumadi said.
It will also support the president's national priority program to transform the Bitung Harbor into an international hub, he noted.
The establishment of the new RoRo shipping route also has the potential to boost the local economy and increase tourism and investment in the area, he pointed out.
It is also forecast that the route will be competitive, as it will lead to a shorter travel time due to its close geographical proximity, thereby helping to lower the logistics and transportation costs.
"It only takes one to two days to travel on the Bitung-Davao route, which is significantly shorter as compared to the Bitung-Surabaya/Jakarta-Manila-Davao route that takes at least one to two weeks. Surely, the costs of transportation and logistics will go down as well," he remarked.
Philippine Ambassador to Indonesia Maria Lumen B. Isleta had earlier said new economic and trade opportunities are in sight with the opening of the Davao-General Santos-Bitung (D-G-B) shipping service, which is one of the target priorities for the Philippines Chairmanship of the ASEAN in 2017.
Ambassador Isleta and members of the Philippines and Indonesia Inter-Agency Task Force for the Operationalization of the D-G-B Roll-on/Roll-off (RoRo) Route gathered in Jakarta on Jan 17, 2017, to discuss preparations for the maiden voyage of the RoRo, which will connect Davao and General Santos City to Bitung in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, the Philippine embassy said in a statement in January.
The D-G-B RoRo Route under the ASEAN RoRo Initiative aims to enhance maritime connectivity in ASEAN and maximize the use of regional sea lanes.
The opening of the route is a more cost and time-efficient alternative to the usual Manila-Jakarta-Bitung route, which would take about three to five weeks of shipping time.
In contrast, direct shipping through the D-G-B route will take only one day and a half of sailing (excluding port stay).
The route is also expected to spur trade between Mindanao and the Sulawesi provinces in Indonesia. It is also expected to provide greater access for local businessmen to engage in international trade, as well as stimulate other areas of development such as joint tourism promotion, establishment of direct linkages, and increase in investment inflows, among others.
Meanwhile, Mindanao Development Authority Assistant Secretary Romeo Montenegro said the Ro-Ro route will strengthen trade among the four countries comprising the East ASEAN Growth Area (EAGA), CNN Philippines reported on April 28.
"Expect this to be already setting the tone for a much increased trade movement and movement of commodities not only between Mindanao and the North Sulawesi part of Indonesia but the larger economic spectrum, where we also look at this route as a possible transshipment of products that are coming from Luzon, or other countries that are penetrating North Sulawesi, Indonesia," Montenegro said in a press briefing at the 30th ASEAN summit on April 29.
Among the goods identified by the private sector in Mindanao that will be shipped to Indonesia are animal feeds, fertilizer, construction materials, ice cream products, poultry (halal), fresh fruits, and synthetics. Mindanao Development Authority said initial list of import goods include matured coconut, copra, corn, feed ingredients, lumber, cement, high value crops, vegetables, meat, peanuts, aqua products, charcoal, soya, coffee beans, and sugar.
M/V Super Shuttle RoRo 12, operated by the Asian Marine Transport Corporation, will provide the weekly shipping service, according to the CNN Philippines.
With a capacity of 500 twenty foot equivalent units, the vessel will carry imported mature coconut, copra, and other high value crops, as well as exported animal feeds, fertilizer, and halal poultry.
Trade Assistant Secretary Arturo Boncato said the usual Manila to Jakarta to Bitung route takes three to five weeks of shipping time. The direct shipping through the Davao-GenSan-Bitung route takes a day and a half.
The most important that he assures the ferry service is safe from pirates because the Coast Guard and Philippine Navy will be present to escort the vessel throughout the trip amid threats from bandits and pirates in the area.
Boncato said when initiating a project, security issue is a key part of the whole process so an interagency task force was created to look at all the aspects to make the project a success, JournalOnline (www.journal.com.ph) reported.
"We are ready in all those aspects not only when it comes to security but also when it comes to sustainability of commodities being shipped," Boncato told the media. ***1***