Duterte, Widodo open new shipping route
DAVAO CITY—The MV Super Shuttle Roro 12 on Sunday steamed out of Kudos Port here for its maiden voyage to Bitung, Indonesia, after President Duterte and Indonesian President Joko Widodo banged gongs to signal the opening of the new trade route.
Owned by Asian Marine Transport Corp., the 145-meter, 15,375-ton vessel left for Indonesia with 50 6.096-meter containers of flour for a local milling company and hundreds of empty containers that would be used for loading goods on its trip back to Davao, said Kim Pancho, the shipping company’s Davao manager.
Widodo hailed the opening of the new shipping route, which links the Philippine cities of Davao and General Santos to the Indonesian province of North Sulawesi, saying it represented new business opportunities between the two countries.
Aimed at reducing the cost and time of travel from Mindanao’s industrial hubs to the Indonesian port city of Bitung, the opening of the shipping route came at a favorable time when trade between the two countries was strong, Widodo said.
Mr. Duterte received Widodo at Davao International Airport around 9 a.m. on Sunday and the two leaders motored to the private Kudos Port in Sasa District for the official launching of the new shipping service.
“The launching of the roll-on, roll-off (Ro-Ro) between Davao, General Santos and Bitung is an important milestone. It will cut the amount of time for the transportation of goods between the two regions,” Widodo said in a speech before Philippine and Indonesian officials and business leaders.
“I hope this new Ro-Ro service represents new opportunities that will foster new businesses for the good of our people,” he said.
Widodo said he was also thankful to visit for the first time Mr. Duterte’s home city, which he called “a wonderful city and a great region.”
The Indonesian leader then mentioned his apparent similarities to Mr. Duterte, who according to him, also served as mayor of a city far from the capital.
“I, too, when I took office two and a half years ago, decided to address our imbalance in Indonesia. Most of Indonesia’s development was concentrated on the island of Java, where our capital Jakarta is,” Widodo said.
“Today, most of infrastructure development is focused on the outer regions. We call it building our nation from the outside inward,” he added.
He said he shared views with Mr. Duterte about the need of empowering people from the rural areas.
“People in the outer regions are just as smart, just as strong and just as resourceful as the people in the capital. They only need one thing—that is, to be given a chance,” the Indonesian leader said.
Mr. Duterte said that with the new trade route, “we reaffirm our ties with each other and commit ourselves to the larger aspirations of the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) community.”
The route, which Mr. Duterte brought up with Widodo during his visit to Indonesia last year, is the first of many routes that will form the many international shipping network envisioned by the region’s leaders, the former mayor said.
“The Davao-Gensan-Bitung route will not only connect us with the rest of Asean. It will also physically integrate our respective archipelagos with the rest of the region,” Mr. Duterte said.
The route is expected to cut drastically the shipping time and cost of sending goods from and to the three areas in the two countries, officials said.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said the new route, to be served regularly by a Mindanao-based shipping company, would ensure the ease of flow of goods and help micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises in the Philippines.
“We expect an expansion of trade with our Asean neighbors. We are also keen on expanding trade with Indonesia, our ninth major trading partner,” Lopez said.
Trade with Indonesia has grown in double digits in the last five years, Lopez said, with one of Asean’s largest economies being the Philippines’ Top 40 export market and eighth biggest supplier of imported raw materials and products.
According to Mr. Widodo, trade between the two countries posted a 30-percent increase last year.
Lopez said the new route was among the key components of the 2007 Asean economic blueprint, which would push for the transformation of the region into a single market.
It is also a production base that is highly competitive and fully integrated into the global economy, Lopez added.
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