By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo volunteered Wednesday to head a technical working group (TWG) that would thresh out and look into the “unimplemented matters” and “remaining issues” concerning the Roll-On Roll-Off (RO-RO) Port System missionary routes.
The former President, who went straight to attend the second leg of the House Committee on Transportation oversight hearing from an investment mission in Saudi Arabia, decided to lead the TWG to assess the status of the missionary routes.
“We will have to have another oversight. I’ll be the one to chair since I am not running, “Arroyo said after Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) Officer-in-Charge Administrator Vice Admiral Narciso Vingson Jr. reported to the House panel that there are 21 missionary RORO routes that may be sold to private operators.
“I think there are some unimplemented matters here. We should form a TWG to work on those remaining issues. I’ll be the one to chair,” the speaker said.
It was during the Arroyo presidency when the RO-RO transport system was launched in 2003.
“The remaining 21 routes with RORO ramps are available to be given to the operators, ” Vingzon told the panel.
“We will be publishing this in an advisory today to inform them [the operators] that there are 21 missionary routes,” he said.
A missionary route is an incentive given to a shipping line to service a new route exclusively for five years.
The panel, presided by its vice chairman, Samar Rep. Edgar Mary Sarmiento further assessed the MARINA 10-Year Maritime Industry Development Plan (MIDP), which covers the period of 2019 to 2028.
It compared the current operational master plan with the master plan originally conceptualized by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) during the Arroyo presidency.
Upon comparison, it was found out that the Tubigon to Naga route is the only remaining route in the ADB master plan that has yet to be served and implemented.
“I think if you’re talking about the original master plan that wasn’t carried out, there’s really only one, only the Tubigon to Naga route. So maybe that’s all you have to ask [funds] for. That makes it much easier for you. You don’t need an EO (Executive Order) anymore; you only need the PPA (Philippine Ports Authority). Kasi really that’s very affordable,” Arroyo said.
“So I think if you’re going to look for a missionary route, if you follow the original ADB master plan, you’re only looking now for Tubigon to Naga which I think will have many takers. It’s not a very difficult route, so that’s what you should give notice to today,” she added.
The House Committee on Transportation also set up another TWG to conduct a case study on the effects of shipping costs on the prices of produce from Bukidnon to Manila.
Bukidnon Rep. Manuel Zubiri is tasked to chair the second TWG, which aims to uncover the impact of transportation costs on the prices of goods.
“This is for the whole country. This is very important. This will alleviate a lot of our problems in Mindanao because we are having a hard time, in terms of logistics,” he said.
The member of the panel wanted to know the average RORO charges in nautical highways
“We want to know if the cost is reasonable,” Marikina Rep. Bayani Fernando said after some agency officials during the meeting asserted there are minimal fees required through the RO-RO system.