CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – A proposed bill to construct the trans-Mindanao highway to establish an alternative route connecting Caraga and Northern Mindanao was approved on second reading at the Lower House.

Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez, representative of the city’s First District, authored the House Bill 2799 containing the trans-Mindanao highway project.

In a statement, Rodriguez said the proposed 240-kilometer road will connect Caraga and Northern Mindanao all the way to Laguindingan Airport in Misamis Oriental and that the construction itself would contribute to the development of Mindanao.

“At present, Agusan del Sur and Surigao del Sur are isolated from western Mindanao due to absence of an east-to-west highway,” said Rodriguez.

A new highway, the lawmaker added, would open up large tracts of agricultural land in Surigao del Sur, Agusan del Sur, Bukidnon, Misamis Oriental and Cagayan de Oro City to agricultural, commercial, residential and industrial development.

The bill mandates the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to construct the 240-kilometer trans-Mindanao highway that would connect Tandag, Surigao del Sur to Laguindingan International Airport in Misamis Oriental.

Rodriguez said the highway will pass through Prosperidad in Agusan del Sur to Malaybalay City and Talakag in Bukidnon, which will connect the Talakag-Barangay Dansolihon road and Barangay Dansolihon-Barangay San Simon-Laguindingan Airport highway.

The funds for the future trans-Mindanao superhighway would be included in the proposed annual budget, he added.

Meanwhile, a Mindanao-based shipping line is expected to make trips to the United States bringing local goods and other commodities.

A report in the BIMP-EAGA website said Reefer Express Line Filipinas Inc. in General Santos City will start to ship products to the US through its vessel MV Cool Spirit. The ship’s maiden voyage was scheduled in the last week of August.

Felix Ishizuka, Reefer Express CEO, said MV Cool Spirit will berth in Long Beach, California in the West Coast and then Philadelphia in the East Coast and will make monthly trips.

Ishizuka said a lot of container lines now also skips calls to the Philippines or Mindanao as they prioritize ports that give them better revenues.

He said local manufacturers struggle to find ways to ship their goods overseas, and if they get a slot in container lines, they are faced with costly fees.

“If you have big operations producing foodstuffs for markets like the US and you have no shipping, you will end up piling inventory in your warehouse,” he added.

Given the shipping problem is expected to last three to five years, Ishizuka said manufacturers need to strategize to ensure their logistic needs are met since the air freight market is also uncertain because of the pandemic.

He said the MV Cool Spirit will carry manufactured goods like canned food, desiccated coconut, hardware products, and garments.

The ship, he added, can carry more than 800 twenty-foot equivalent unit containers.

“It is a reefer vessel, a refrigerated cargo ship that can also carry perishable goods like frozen bananas or processed milkfish,” Ishizuka said.

He said transit time will only take 26 days as the maiden voyage will not have stops.

Ishizuka said Reefer Express will be charging 50 percent to 60 percent less than prevailing market rates for the service.

“We provide the cheapest freight rate and the fastest solution to bring your cargo, your product, to the market,” he added.

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