DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 25 Feb) — The government here urged the airline industry to revive flights between Davao City and Manado in the North Sulawesi, as the launch of the new Davao-General Santos City-Bitung sea route will create a demand for direct flights from businessmen between Philippines and Indonesia, Trade assistant secretary Arturo Boncato, Jr. said.
The weekly Davao-General Santos-Bitung sea route will be launched on April 30, on the 30th Association of Southeast Asian Summit (ASEAN) Summit.
Boncato told reporters during Davao-General Santos-Bitung, Indonesia Business Forum at the SMX Convention Center Davao on Friday that the air link will give businessmen the ease of travel as they trade with their counterparts.
“We are talking to the air sector now because this is purely cargo connection. Definitely, there will be a need for the businessmen to fly straight to Davao or Gensan. The best way to do that is by flying straight out of Sulawesi to Mindanao, so this is an opportunity for our air linkage partners to see and look at or maybe charter first (new) flights,” he said.
The regular Davao-Manado flight was halted in 2008 for lack of load factor. An earlier attempt in the 1990s, shortly after the launch of the East ASEAN Growth Area (EAGA) comprising Brunei, East Indonesia, East Malaysia and Mindanao and Palawan in the Philippines, was also stopped.
Boncato said he was very optimistic for the Davao-Gensan-Bitung route as it favors exporters from both countries who will enjoy a shorter travel period for commodities and cheaper shipment costs.
According to Boncato, under the current Davao-Manila-Jakarta-Bitung sea route, goods from Davao take about three to five weeks before reaching the destination while it will only take 1.5 days for the Davao-Gensan-Bitung route.
“This will cut time in moving goods from certain parts of the Philippines to parts of Indonesia. This is a very good route to move products from the Philippines to Indonesia, China, (South) Korea, and the rest of the world because it is very strategic and great for our local producers,” he said.
Transportation undersecretary Fernando Juan Perez described the route as a “gold mine” because it opens up a lot of opportunities for exporters from both countries.
“Hopefully, the business sector will see that this trade route is a gold mine. There is so much opportunity and they should take advantage of opening up this route,” he said.
He added that he saw huge interests from the business leaders from both countries.
“This route is going to fly, but we need the help of the businessman to sustain it. We need the help of the businessmen,” he said.
The route, Fernandez said, will be serviced by Asian Marine Transport Corporation, which is owned by businessman Paul Rodriguez, with a vessel that can hold up to 100 20-footer vans.
Romeo Montenegro, director for investment promotion and public affairs of Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), said President Rodrigo Duterte may meet with Indonesian President Joko Widodo in Davao City to lead the launch of the Davao-General Santos-Bitung, Indonesia sea route on April 30.
“He’s been invited to do a joint launch of the Davao-Gensan-Bitung route,” he said.
He said the route will improve business in two tracks, “one, it will take make Davao-Gensan-Bitung as transshipment points, second, it will engage all of our producers in the Philippines, especially Mindanao and Palawan, as part of our effort in BIMP to broaden business and link with markets in Bitung and the rest of Indonesia and vice versa,” he said.
He added this connection “is going to be historic because, in terms of transshipment, it will cut the time, in terms of moving” the goods.
MinDA secretary Abulkhayr Alonto said he is delighted by the opening of the new sea route which will boost the development of Mindanao which shared the similar “culture and history” with the rest of the BIMP-EAGA members.
“I am more than pleased that with Bitung Port already reclassified as an international gateway, this will open additional opportunities for Mindanao commodities to be traded once we operationalize the RORO shipping services that will be plying the route,” he said.
He added the progress in the BIMP-EAGA connectivity and trade is another proof that “sub-regional economic groupings like ours truly serve as the building blocks for regional integration.”
He said Mindanao must gear up for the influx of new opportunities as a result of the renewed socioeconomic ties among BIMP-EAGA members.
“The opening of this route will not only fortify our economic ties, but will also reclaim our historical links. Indeed, we are one, strong historic family,” he added. (Antonio L. Colina IV/ MindaNews)