By ANTONIO L. COLINA, MindaNews
DAVAO City – Sounding optimistic over the economic opportunities that could be unlocked with the launch on April 30 of a new shipping route between Mindanao and Indonesia, an official declared that the island “is now catching up” with the rest of the country.
Mindanao Development Authority Chair Abul Khayr Alonto told “Wednesdays at Habi at Kape” that Mindanao is now being poised as the gateway of the Philippines to the world.
On Sunday President Rodrigo Duterte and Indonesian President Joko Widodo will arrive in Davao for the launch of the Davao-General Santos-Bitung, Indonesia roll on/roll off shipping service.
The two leaders are attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit on April 26-29 in Manila.
Nineteen Indonesian business leaders will accompany Widodo.
Alonto said these businessmen will come from the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and may even extend their stay in the city to explore opportunities with their local counterparts on how they can work together to sustain the new shipping route.
“This will be an opportunity to already work it out with their counterparts coming from Indonesia. We have Indonesian companies already based in the country who will also participate,” he said.
The Indonesian businessmen will meet with potential business partners from the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. to explore ways to improve trade and economic relations as well as to secure the load factor of the new route.
The new route takes 1.5 days, the shortest and cheapest means to exchange goods with Indonesia.
Under the current Davao-Manila-Jakarta-Bitung shipping route, the shipment of goods takes about three to five weeks.
Alonto said the new route will encourage small and medium businesses to produce products that will cater to both the domestic and ASEAN markets.
The goods to be traded will include animal feeds, aqua products, charcoal, coffee beans, construction materials, copra, feed ingredients, fertilizers, food and beverages, fresh fruits, ice cream products, meats, peanuts, poultry (halal), soya, sugar, and synthetics.
“This will encourage us to produce more than what we can sell. In fact, this will encourage people to work further in enhancing cultural and economic means in their communities because we will be exporting what we can produce down here,” Alonto said.
The opportunities will benefit the Bangsamoro people in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and even those who are in the underdeveloped parts of Mindanao, he said.
The new route will strengthen cooperation and collaboration not only in the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) but also in the entire ASEAN.
The route will be served by M/V Super Shuttle RORO 12, owned by Asian Marine Transport Corporation, with a capacity of 500 20-foot equivalent unity.
Alonto said the Davao-Gensan-Bitung route will facilitate not only the exchange of goods but also the movement of people, ideas, languages, and cultures.
He said he believes the new route will be sustained and is just the “beginning and opening” of a more strengthened partnership.
Alonto said he was elated the Duterte administration pushed for the opening of this route as it institutionalizes the historical trading routes practiced in the pre-Spanish era from Mindanao to Sulawesi, Indonesia and other locations in the BIMP-EAGA.
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