Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has recommended to the Maritime Industry Authority to define as missionary route the unserved Roll-on, Roll-off or Ro-Ro ports in the country especially those ports connecting poor areas to prosperous ones.
At the same time, Arroyo suggested at the House Committee on Transportation meeting during a briefing on the status of Ro-Ro projects that she sees no need for an executive order to define unserved Ro-Ro ports as missionary routes.
The committee, chaired by Catanduanes Rep. Cesar Sarmiento, said the briefing on the status of the Ro-Ro system aims to determine its status and the ways to improve, expand or revive the same.
“This is accordance with the directive of Speaker GMA who promoted the Strong Republic Nautical Highway project since 2003 that led to lower cost of freight and passenger transport, shorter travel time, and the introduction of new inter-island connections,” Sarmiento said in his opening remarks during the meeting.
The Ro-RoTerminal System or Ro-Ro Project was developed pursuant to Executive Order No. 170 issued by then President Arroyo.
It was developed to connect Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao to reduce the high cost of transporting people, goods and services through an integrated national highway system.
MARINA’s presentation of its 10-Year Maritime Industry Development Program showed that there are remaining 30 routes that are still unserved and are part of the MIDP to be covered and developed.
After the presentation, the Speaker asked MARINA to go back to the 10-year plan to see what ports are involved.
“This plan addresses the routes without a vessel so we will see whether it’s because of the vessels or because of the ports not being in proper condition to receive or send off vessels,” the Speaker said.
She said these routes were from her time and her master plan.
After a thorough review, the Speaker then recommended the exclusion from the list of unserved ports for reasons such as 1) the operation of another nearby port; 2) there is no vessel and it is more convenient for motorist to go by land; and 3) because of environmental factor like the presence of butanding in the case of Pilar, Sorsogon, among others.
She told MARINA that there is no need to include these routes so as to lessen the expenditure.
“You might be submitting a very ambitious plan and it turns out that it does not have to be that much,” the Speaker said.
She also recalled when they forced an operator to take the Dumaguete - Dapitan route since nobody wanted to take it.
“The incentive we gave for the operator was that it’s a missionary route and they were given the privilege of being the sole operator for five years,” she said.
The Speaker said it worked because after that, there is a trip in that area every hour.
Department of Transportation Undersecretary Fernando Juan Perez disclosed that they gave missionary routes before when there was no vessel plying the Manila-Davao route.
Regarding the status of Ro-Ro operators, he said that from 2003 to 2010, there were 49 Ro-Ro operators but during the period 2010 to 2016, there were no new Ro-Ro operators.
“However, during 2016 to the present, there were new 18 operators. This brings to a total of 67 RoRo operators,” he said.
Philippine Inter-Island Shipping Association representative Christopher Pastrana said they have seen the contribution of the Ro-Ro project in the development, improvement and movement of people and goods.
He said that in the last five years, they have deployed brand new ships in the routes that have been established during the program of Arroyo, who was then president, and have further enhanced the services of these ports.