HILONGOS, Leyte- The oversight committee on transportation at the lower house of Congress met here on March 5 to revisit an alternate shipping route across the archipelago using the roll-on, roll-off (RORO) system.
Led by House Speaker and former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the gathering was attended by representatives of regulatory government agencies and top players of sea transportation in the private sector, especially in the Visayas and Mindanao corridors.
Focus of intense discussion was the cost of handling goods while in transit along the lanes of the nautical highways from Davao to Manila and vice-versa, including other charges, mostly land-based, along the way.
Speaker Arroyo was joined by Rep. Manuel Zubiri of the third district of Bukidnon, Rep. Bayani Fernando of Marikina, Leyte Rep.Yedda Romualdez, the local officials of Hilongos led by Mayor Albert Villahermosa, and Southern Leyte lone district representative Roger Mercado.
Earlier, while waiting for the arrival of the House leader at the Maasin Airport in Barangay Panan-awan, Rep. Mercado shared the context of the meeting, saying the nautical highways system through RORO ports would be the main topic.
It can be recalled that during her term as president, Arroyo pushed for a function nautical highway as another channel for transporting goods and vehicles anywhere to and from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.
Under this concept, the western nautical highway connects the ports of Batangas to Calapan then on to Roxas, Oriental Mindoro; to Caticlan, to Iloilo City, Bacolod City, Dumaguete City, and up to Dapitan in Mindanao.
The central nautical highway jumps off from Camarines Sur to Burias Island, to Masbate, then on to Daan Bantayan and Bogo, Cebu; then Cebu City to Tubigon, Bohol; Jagna, Bohol to Camiguin, and on to Balingoan, Misamis Oriental in Mindanao.
The eastern seaboard departs from Pilar or Bulan, Sorsogon to Masbate; Cawayan, Masbate to Naval, Biliran, or Maripipi, Biliran to Naval, Biliran; land travel to San Ricardo, Southern Leyte, then off to Lipata, Surigao, in Mindanao.
At the oversight hearing, the consensus was that for now the cost for travelling perishable agricultural goods and trucking services along these routes, plus freight, stevedoring, and terminal fees, was high, details of which are to be taken up further by the technical working group to find ways and means at lowering these charges.
But a silver lining was the opening of at least seven (7) RORO missionary routes at different lateral points not indicated in the nautical highway, among them the Ubay, Bohol to Guadalupe, Maasin Port, which debuts its maiden voyage on March 8.(LDL/MMP/PIA-8, Southern Leyte)