Ferry system eyed to link Palawan to Malaysia – Tugade
MANILA — The Philippines is now in talks to link Palawan with Malaysia — possibly Sabah in Borneo — via ferry connections, according to Transportation Secretary Arturo Tugade.
This comes as the country is poised to launch on Sunday a roll-on, roll-off ferry service between Davao and General Santos cities and Bitung City of Indonesia, which is seen to spur trade between the two regional partners.
Speaking at a press briefing during the 30th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit in Manila, Tugade announced that he had initiated discussions with his Malaysian counterpart for the possible sea route.
He said the idea was to replicate the arrangement with Indonesia for the Davao-Gensan-Bitung route, which would be serviced by a roll-on, roll-off vessel.
“Because we have started this, I have initiated or rather we had initial talks with the Malaysian minister for transportation to replicate the same, from Palawan to a point in Malaysia, perhaps Sabah or wherever,” Tugade told reporters.
Pressed to give details, the Cabinet member said the possible sea linkage with Malaysia was broached during a bilateral talk between him and Liow Tiong Lai in Langkawi some four weeks ago.
“There was this initial conversation, and we agreed to have our technical working group to study that connection [and] where it will be in Malaysia and where exactly it will be in Palawan,” he said.
Among the matters to be discussed would include the volume of cargo and the number of people who could be moved from one city to the next, he added.
Although he mentioned Sabah, Tugade did not address how this might impact the Philippines’ dormant claim on the territory, which used to be part of the Sulu Sultanate.
Besides the possible sea route, the transportation official said Malaysia had also indicated a desire to build a metro rail transit project from the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City to Quiapo in Manila.
“On specific projects related to Malaysia, they have indicated the desire to do an MRT project from UP to Quiapo but this is being studied right now,” Tugade said.
“What does this tell you? It tells you our Asean neighbors are really very keen and interested in the developments that are ongoing within the country,” he said.
“On top of this, needless to say, our two major trading partners, which is China and Japan, are aggressively pushing for participation not only in rails and roads, but also airports. You will see that internationally, there’s a lot of interest here,” Tugade said.
He said he would also be meeting on Thursday night with a group of Russian businessmen together with the Russian vice minister of Russia for “purely exploratory” talks.
“But it shows there is a very keen and aggressive interest to do business with the Philippines and with the Filipino people,” Tugade said. SFM
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