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Cargo, passenger traffic in most Roro routes rising–expert

CARGO volumes and passenger traffic in the Central-Eastern Nautical Highways roll-on, roll-off (Roro) continue to grow with the establishment of the western seaboard despite slower economic growth, according to a logistics expert.

Enrico Basilio, director of the Center for Research and Communication’s (CRC) Transport and Logistics Institute, told a logistics conference that the western seaboard did not compete with the central and eastern seaboards but actually is “complementary.”

Basilio said cargo traffic in most Roro routes in the central and eastern seaboards has increased to 104,362 metric tons (MT) in 2007 from 4,021 MT in 2003. This is evident particularly in the Lucena-Masbate route.

The Central Nautical Highway is the central route connecting Pilar, Sorsogon, to Balingoan in Misamis Oriental, through Central Visayas and connects to the East-West routes of Cataingan in Masbate and San Carlos City in Negros Occidental.

The Eastern Nautical Highway, on the other hand, is the eastern sea link that connects Biliran, Leyte, to Surigao City or the northeastern tip of Mindanao and the central trunk route of Cataingan in Masbate.

Basilio said a CRC study shows that shipments through Roro routes mainly include agri-fishery products, manufactured goods, fruits and vegetables and livestock. “We found that a lot of cargo being moved by Roro are agriculture products and this has impact on poverty alleviation and countryside development,” he said.

Basilio said agricultural products that pass through the Eastern Nautical Highway are fruits and vegetables, as well as fishery products all the way from General Santos and Davao.

Mineral products such as nickel, chromite, silica and limestones are shipped out of Surigao.

For some routes in the Central Nautical Highway, as well as east-west lateral connections such as Cebu-Tubigon and San Carlos-Toledo, palay, rice, copra, live animals, fishery products, fruits and vegetables top the list of major agricultural commodities that are transported by Roro, he added.

Basilio said rice and palay, fishery products, fruits and vegetables dominate the commodity flow for the western seaboard.

Also, total passenger traffic particularly in the Roxas-Caticlan route reached almost 700,000 in 2006 from more than 1,000 in 2003. “From 2003 to 2006, tourism receipts in Boracay grew by 50 percent, Iloilo by 30 percent, Bacolod by 15 percent and Dapitan by 200 percent,” he said.

The Western Nautical Highway links Manila and Dipolog connecting to the Central Nautical Highway in Cebu City.

“Surprisingly, in the Southwestern Mindanao network [Jolo, Sulu, Tawi-tawi], a lot of fishery products largely marine, carrageenan and seaweeds and livestock are now ferried by Roro,” he noted.

Basilio is optimistic that the Roro will continue to play a pivotal role in domestic trade, tourism and area development despite slower economic growth this year.

“Roro softened the impact of the shipping liner crisis in June 2008,” he said, recalling the grounding of the Sulpicio ships because of the Princess of the Stars tragedy that reduced the supply of ships that transport goods and people within the country.

“It was Roro that provided the alternative mode of sea transport,” he added. Danielle Venz, (Philexport News And Features, Business Mirror)

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