The arrival of the Chinese ships coincided with the launch of the maiden voyage of a roll on-roll off vessel from the Davao port to Bitung in Menado in Indonesia by President Joko Widodo and President Duterte.
Widodo travelled to Davao from Manila after the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) summit at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City.
The vessel sailed off for the Davao-Bitung sea route with initial 50 containers, five of which are flour cargoes produced by Pilmico Foods Corp. Some reports indicated the cargo was only one percent of the capacity of the ship.
President Duterte said the ferry service is part of the larger ASEAN RoRo Shipping Network, which “will help ASEAN member-countries realize a collective goal of creating an integrated regional market.”
”This will also complement the country’s own domestic infrastructure modernization program,” he said before business and government delegations from both the Philippines and Indonesia at the launching of the new shipping route
Duterte noted the two countries have links since the pre-colonial times through active barter trading and free flow of people from both territories then.
He said the bond between the Philippines and Indonesia is shaped by the vast seas that connect the two countries.
”During the past decades, we were further bound to strengthen our spirit of brotherhood with the forging of sister-city agreements that promote meaningful bonds of friendship among our peoples,” he stressed.
With the opening of the new maritime trade route, Duterte said this reaffirms the ties of both countries. He also stressed the importance of the new sea link to the aspirations of the larger ASEAN community.
He said the opening of the ASEAN RoRo route between the Philippines and Indonesia was a commitment he forged with President Widodo during the ASEAN summit in September last year.
President Widodo said the opening of the Davao-GenSan-Bitung route is an important milestone, noting “it stands as a symbol of friendship between the Filipino and Indonesian peoples.”
Widodo cited Duterte’s concern in bringing development to regions outside of the capital city of Manila. Widodo said it is also the same move he is taking to achieve balance in Indonesia, where most of the development is now concentrated in the island of Java near the capital Jakarta.
“I hope this RoRo service between Davao and Indonesia presents new opportunities and new businesses,” Widodo said.
Both leaders are optimistic that the new route will open new ports and new routes that will stimulate trade, tourism and other areas of development among ASEAN member-states.
Kim Pancho, Davao branch manager of Asian Marine Transport Corp., told reporters after the launch at the Kudos Port in Sasa that the inaugural voyage only carried five TEUs and 50 20-foot empty container vans that will be repositioned at the port in Bitung.
Pancho said it costs the shipping company P10 million per trip. The shipping schedule, according to earlier announcements, is weekly.
Super Shuttle is expected to arrive in Bitung, North Sulawesi on May 2.
The Aboitiz-led Pilmico Foods Corp., a flour milling company, was the only company that committed to ship its product during the inaugural voyage. Pancho said more cargo load is expected during the second voyage, following the interest of the companies to take advantage of the shorter route.
“Actually, the Bitung side (exporters) has committed. There will be more after the second voyage,” he said in a Minda News report.
Shipment period for this route takes only about 1.5 to two days compared with five weeks for the Davao-Manila-Jakarta-Bitung route, Pancho said.
The shipment cost of the Davao-GenSan-Bitung route is also cheaper at P34,713 per TEU compared with P109,098 per TEU for the Davao-Manila-Jakarta-Bitung route.
He urged traders to use this RORO route and sought help from both governments of Indonesia and Philippines to relax the process of securing permits.
He said they are asking the government here for a fuel subsidy to help sustain the operations.
Products that can be exported to Indonesia 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.
Gift toys, housewares, pharmaceuticals, and fresh fruits are restricted for now. But Pancho said they are still negotiating for fresh fruits to be exported, this being the primary export of Mindanao.
Aside from Pilmico, Trade secretary Ramon Lopez also named CDO Foodsphere Inc., San Miguel Corporation, Franklin Baker, Unilever, FEMSA Coca Cola, and ACS Manufacturing as among the large companies that have signified interest to use this route.
He said the government sees a huge and vast potential “that will spell a big difference most especially to micro, small, and medium enterprises” to trade across the borders.
The greater connectivity, Lopez said, will broaden the expansion of trade among the ASEAN countries, according to Minda News.
Last week, Russian warships docked in Manila and Duterte boarded the ships in what is touted as improving relationship between Manila and Moscow.
US warships, meanwhile, docked in Subic for a port call, repair and rest and recreation for its crew.
The arrival of the Chinese warships came on the heels of the preparations for a joint military exercises by American and Filipino troops.
Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua said the visit herey of the three Chinese navy ships will further strengthen relations between the Philippines and China.Zhao led the ceremony for the arrival of the three vessels of the China People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy Task Group 150 at Sasa Port here. The port call was initially set in Manila.
He said the goodwill visit is a manifestation of China’s move “to resume friendship with the Philippines,” noting he is looking forward to stronger ties between the two countries.
The three-day visit is the first for China for 2017 and the first in recent years since their last visit in April 2010. The visit is aimed at expanding communication, promoting cooperation and improving friendship between the Philippine Navy and PLA Navy.
The Chinese naval ships include the guided missile destroyer Chang Chun (DDG150), guided missile frigate Jin Zhou (FFG532) and type 903 replenishment ship Chao Hu (890). The visit is headed by Rear Admiral Shen Hao, the deputy commander of the East Sea Fleet of the PLA Navy and concurrent commander-in-chief of the PLA Navy Task Group 150.
Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, who led local government officials in welcoming the visiting Chinese vessels, officials and staff, said there were three reasons mentioned by the Chinese navy officials why they chose Davao as port of call.
These are for a change since similar visit always happen in the capital city; Davao City is the hometown of President Rodrigo Duterte; and that the city is more receptive to see the modern navy ships, the mayor said.
The mayor admitted she was “envious” in seeing the inside of one of the navy ships. She wished that President Duterte can also acquire at least two modern navy ships during his term. (via PhilAmPress)