MANILA—President Rodrigo Duterte and Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Friday lauded the upcoming opening of a new maritime route between the Philippines and Indonesia, saying the development affirms the two countries’ renewed commitment to further strengthen bilateral ties.
In a joint statement following their successful bilateral meeting in Malacañang, the two leaders said that they are both pleased with the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Establishment of Sea Connectivity between Davao, General Santos and Bitung.
The new maritime route is within the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).
Duterte said that as part of the two countries’ common goal for just and lasting peace and development in Mindanao, they have agreed to “strengthen the BIMP-EAGA to bring progress where they are needed most.”
“I am pleased with the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Establishment of Sea Connectivity between Davao, General Santos and Bitung. On Sunday, President Widodo and I will launch the maiden voyage of the RORO vessel that will depart for Bitung,” he said.
“This will facilitate trade and movement of goods. This deserves full support from both our governments,” Duterte said.
For Widodo, the opening of the RORO ferry service between the two countries will further boost connectivity among ASEAN member countries.
“I am also pleased today to witness the signing of two cooperation commitment in the field of transportation in particular the launching of Davao-General Santos-Bitung RORO shipping route,” he said.
“The day after tomorrow, we will officially inaugurate the RORO shipping route in Davao, an important element in the development of ASEAN Connectivity,” Widodo said.
Earlier, the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), the Davao City-General Santos-Bitung, ferry service will provide a cheaper and faster avenue for trading goods among EAGA’s key cities.
The new maritime route is expected to become a more cost and time-efficient alternative to the Manila-Jakarta-Bitung route, which usually takes about three to five weeks of shipping time.
In contrast, direct shipping through the Davao-GenSan-Bitung route will take only one and a half day of sailing (excluding port stay).
M/V Super Shuttle RoRo 12, operated by the Asian Marine Transport Corporation, will provide a weekly shipping service to the route with a vessel capacity of 500 Twenty Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs).
Savings of up to USD 1,500 (PHP 74,000) per TEU is expected to be generated through this route given its USD 700 (PHP 34,713) per TEU rate per 20 feet dry container as compared to the Davao-General Santos to Manila to Manado via Jakarta which amounts to USD 2,200 (PHP 109,098) per TEU.
Furthermore, the opening of the route will provide greater opportunities for local businessmen to participate in international trade as well as stimulate other areas of development such as joint tourism promotion, establishment of direct linkages, and increase in investments, among others.
Among the goods identified by the private sector in Mindanao at this stage that will be shipped to Indonesia are: animal feeds, fertilizer, construction materials, ice cream products, poultry (halal), fresh fruits, and synthetics.
Initial list of import goods, on the other hand, include matured coconut, copra, corn, feed ingredients, lumber, cement, high value crops, vegetables, meat, peanuts, aqua products, charcoal, soya, coffee beans, and sugar.
Meanwhile, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Assistant Secretary Arturo Boncato Jr. said the RORO service is one of the priority projects of the BIMP-EAGA’s connectivity group.
He explained that with the completed port improvements and the declaration of the city of Bitung as an international port, the sustainability of the route becomes more feasible as the Indonesian government has provided its full support to the link’s opening and operation.
“The route would help boost the competitiveness of Mindanao products and provide a more efficient access for local businessmen to engage trading with Indonesian partners,” Boncato said.