By Antonio Colina IV
DAVAO CITY — Transport ministers of the 10-country Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) will sign next month a memorandum of understanding (MOU), allowing non-conventional size ships, including wooden boats, to cross the maritime borders of the countries within the region, Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) Executive Director Romeo Montenegro.
Montenegro said that all 5-tonnage boats and less, even the wooden vessels, can continue plying the seas within the ASEAN area once the MOU is signed.
ASEAN is comprised of Brunei Darrusalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
He said this was originally proposed at the level of the transport ministers of the Brunei Darrusalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) years ago but the proposal was later adopted by the ASEAN ministers.
“What originally started as a BIMP-EAGA initiative many, many years ago is now going to be adopted in ASEAN so what this means is that once that particular agreement is signed by transport ministers, the NCSS or the less than 5 tonnage vessels, the wooden vessels, are now recognized as a standard therefore they can continue to ply, cross broader,” he said.
He said the International Maritime Organization (IMO), in January this year, mandated the transition of all non-steel hull vessels to steel vessels, more particularly to vessels traversing major seas.
But he said the officials from the BIMP-EAGA argued maritime boundaries in sub-region are within short distances and can be traversed via smaller vessels, even wooden boats of the fishermen.
He added fisher folks and small traders engaged in cross border trading would benefit from this development.
“It’s still logical as medium of transport especially for our barter traders in Tawi-Tawi going towards Sabah because of the economy of scale, you cannot expect them to shift to steel vessels. They cannot afford that,” Montenegro said.