Philippines: EAGA transport cluster to reopen Gensan-Bitung sea link

May. 07, 2007

GENERAL SANTOS CITY- Seeing the need for further expanding trading ties
within BIMP-EAGA, the sub-region’s working group on sea linkages agreed
recently to revitalize the sea link connecting the tuna-belt region of
Southern Mindanao and North Sulawesi, Indonesia.

Revival of the Gensan-Bitung sea route was strongly endorsed in a recent
meeting of the EAGA Transport, Infrastructure, ICT Development Cluster in
Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, a major initiative to be implemented under
the BIMP-EAGA Roadmap action plan.

Following the recent encouraging developments in the BIMP-EAGA air
transport, the sea transport sector led by Indonesia is pushing parallel
efforts to invite shipping lines to ply the Gensan-Bitung sea route.

It was pointed out in the meeting that the regular sea route between General
Santos City and Bitung has offered opportunities for increased cross-border
trade as well as trade not only within EAGA but also with Japan, China and
the United States mainland.
MV Rimba Tujuh, an Indonesian-flagged vessel used to ply the route from
March until April 2004. The operation was not sustained due to the inability
of the prevailing load factor then to meet the minimum requirement of the

“Revitalizing the Bitung-GenSan sea route would greatly boost up
cross-border trading between Mindanao and North Sulawesi. By opening our
borders in the sub-region, we are not only linking two areas here but
offering trade and investment opportunities,” Undersecretary Virgilio
Leyretana, Chair of the Mindanao Economic Development Council (MEDCo).

He said that the route opens up a wider market for Southern and Central
Mindanao’s export winners in North Sulawesi and nearby areas for Philippine
processed products which are in demand there.

The route can cut cost and sailing time for East Indonesian exports to East
Asia and the US west coast by as much as fifty percent. The same token
applies to Mindanao exports to Europe.

Exports of canned tuna from North Sulawesi are seen to utilize the new
route, reducing freight cost and sailing time by avoiding the established
circuitous route of going down either to Surabaya or Jakarta to Singapore
then finally to the US west coast. Mindanao canned tuna exports to Europe
could then use the direct route of going south to Bitung in North Sulawesi
to either Surabaya or Jakarta to Singapore then finally to Europe, instead
of taking the longer route of going north first to Kaohsiung in Taiwan or
Hong Kong before sailing south passing Singapore en route to Europe. This is
a prime example of consolidating BIMP-EAGA products for cheaper cost.

In addition to Gensan-Bitung sea route, the Philippines is also requesting
Malaysia for the inclusion of the Bongao Lahad Datu – Tarakan sea link. A
request has been made for the Asian Development Bank and the German
Technical Cooperation Agency to assist in determining the viability of these

The sea working group also agreed in the meeting to activate the Shipping
Association (SA) and use it as a forum for the shipping operators to support
the sea linkages initiatives as well as accelerate the development of
infrastructure such as the New Container Handling facilities at Kariangau
Port in Balikpapan, New Wharf and Extension Wharf at Jayapura Port,
Indonesia, and Sepanggar Container Terminal Port, Sabah, Malaysia.

EAGA flagship projects aimed at improving sea connectivity in the subregion
include the establishment of Ro-Ro Passenger Ferry from Muara, Brunei DS to
Menumbok, Sabah; Ro-Ro Passenger Ferry from Federal Territory of Labuan,
Malaysia to Muara, Brunei DS; and Sea Linkages from Brooke’s Point, Palawan
to Kudat, Sabah.

A Memorandum of Understanding on Establishing an Efficient and Integrated
Sea Linkages is also being finalized for signing during the 2nd BIMP-EAGA
Transport Ministers meeting this year to be hosted by the Philippines. MEDCO

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