Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Sunday lauded President Rodrigo Duterte’s “extraordinary commitment” to establish a new shipping route linking Mindanao to Indonesia, saying that the project shows the administration’s concern for people outside Metro Manila.
“I know you care deeply for the areas of your proud country that are far from the wealthy capital city of Manila,” Widodo told Duterte in a speech during the launching of the Davao- General Santos-Bitung, Indonesia Roll On, Roll Off (RORO) sea route on Sunday.
Widodo said he understood Duterte’s concern for people outside Metro Manila since he also previously served as a mayor.
“Duterte and I sincerely believe that people in other regions are just as strong, resourceful as the rich people in capital cities,” he added.
The Indonesian president said he hopes that the new RORO route will provide new opportunities to Indonesia and the Philippines.
Duterte encouraged the private sector to explore the potentials of the new RORO network.
“We hope opening new ports and routes will stimulate trade, tourism, and other areas of cooperation with the region,” he said.
Mindanao Development Authority chairperson Abul Khayr Alonto earlier said that Indonesian businessmen have met with potential business partners in Davao to discuss trade opportunities.
Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. Chairperson Antonio Dela Cruz also lauded the “strong political will” in pushing for the opening of the new route. He concurred that the route will open up more economic opportunities.
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, meanwhile, said that the new route will reduce the shipping time of goods traded between the two countries.
“Before, shipping takes three to five weeks,” Tugade said, referring to the Manila-Bitung route. “Now, it will be one to two days,” he said.
The Department of Transportation earlier said that the new route will make ferrying goods cheaper, with savings estimated at about $1,500 or P75,000 per twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU), which will create revenue for local businessmen and the government.
The Davao-General Santos-Bitung route is one of three Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) RORO priority routes identified by the Japan International Cooperation Agency Feasibility Study on the Establishment of an Asean RORO Shipping Network.
The study was adopted by the 25th Asean Maritime Transport Working Group Meeting in 2013. The other two routes are the Dumai-Malacca route and the Belawan-Penang-Phuket route.