Duterte to traders: Tap new sea route

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has called on the businesses to harness the potentials of the new sea route from the cities of Davao and General Santos to Bitung City in Indonesia via roll-on/roll-off (RORO) “to contribute to the sustainability of this entire regional shipping network.”

With the new sea route, Duterte said businesses from Mindanao can avail of lower logistical cost at a reduced shipping time from five weeks to two to three days. The route is serviced by Asian Marine Transport Corp., which charged $700 per 20 footer-equivalent unit (TEU) that is lower from the cost of $2,200 when shipping from Davao to Manila to Jakarta, Surabaya and Bitung in Indonesia.

“We are hopeful, that by opening new ports and exploring new routes, we will stimulate trade, tourism and other areas of development among Asean member-states,” Duterte said yesterday during the launching of Davao-General Santos-Bitung connectivity.

The connectivity marked as a milestone for both countries.

President Joko Widodo, who was also in the launching of the route as part of his state visit, said its inauguration is an important milestone that could help traders save logistics costs and lessen the shipping time.

“I hope that this new RORO service, the Davao-General Santos-Bitung route, present new opportunities,” Widodo said.

The sea route is among the most important commitments that President Duterte forged with President Widodo during the former’s state visit in Indonesia in September last year. The link has been found viable for having strong potentials for international trade and commerce, basing on the study of Research Education and Institutional Development Foundation in 2010.

Kim Pancho, branch manager of Asian Marine Transport Corp.-Davao, told the reporters that they hoped companies will utilize the new shipping route to make it sustainable. Even after the inauguration, he said there is more to be done to increase the number of companies that would harness the potentials of the route.

In its maiden voyage yesterday, he said only one percent out of their 500-TEU capacity Super Shuttle vessel or five TEUs were utilized. These five TEUs were occupied by the flour products of Aboitiz-led Pilmico.

Apart from Pilmico, Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez said companies such as CDO Foodsphere Inc., Unilever, San Miguel Corp., ACS Manufacturing and FEMSA Coca Cola bared interest to utilize the new route.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), he said, is boosting their efforts to make the route sustainable.

“We hope especially the micro, small and medium enterprises to consider trading outside the country using this new connectivity,” Lopez said.

With the RORO shipping service, he said it will help double the total trade between Philippines and Indonesia from the current at four percent. Indonesia, he said, is Philippines’ 14th top export market and eight import supplier.

Transportation Arthur Tugade, meanwhile, said it is best to continuously bear in mind the need to have safety and security in the high seas, sustained volume from point to point and customer satisfaction that includes shortening the processing time for traders.

“Unless we do not pay attention on those three things, this project will not last,” Tugade said.

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