Manila, April 28, 2023—The United States government, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), supported the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) government’s April 25 launch of a roll-on, roll-off (RORO) shipping service that will boost local trade and investment in the region by linking Polloc Port in Parang, Maguindanao to Lamitan, Basilan.
Led by the BARMM Ministry of Transport and Communications (MoTC), in partnership with the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) and USAID, the ferry service will cut travel time between Cotabato and Zamboanga by at least six hours and reduce transportation costs by as much as 30 percent.
Through its Regulatory Reform Support Program for National Development (RESPOND) project implemented by the University of the Philippines Public Administration Research and Extension Services Foundation, USAID supported the development of the BARMM RORO shipping service by training BARMM officials and staff on infrastructure development and facilitating a series of multi-stakeholder workshops that enabled private sector support for maritime connectivity in the region.
“Strengthening maritime trade routes and intermodal transport systems will open doors for more trade and investment in the region, including in the tourism industry,” USAID Philippines Mission Director Ryan Washburn said in a recorded message at the launch held at the Polloc Freeport and Economic Zone. “Additionally, this route will bring down transport cost of businesses by as much as 20 to 30 percent and reduce wastage of agricultural products that are inevitable if transported by land due to poor road conditions and connectivity.”
BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim, represented at the launch by Maguindanao del Norte Governor Abdulraof Macacua, expressed his full support to the initiative which he described as “a manifestation that the peace accord is succeeding.”
According to MoTC Minister Paisalin Tago, this first leg of the maritime connectivity network will pave the way for more commercial routes, including in Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, and possibly extend beyond the Philippines’ borders. An international shipping company is also exploring the inclusion of Polloc Port in an existing ASEAN RORO network that includes Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
MinDA Chair Secretary Maria Belen Acosta noted that the partnership will reinforce the position of BARMM as an international gateway that will increase trade activities in transport, business, telecoms, and tourism.
After the launch, MoTC presented the highlights of the BARMM Transport Logistics roadmap to high-level officials and private companies, which included an indicative list of priority projects covering maritime connectivity, local roads, information and communications technology, riverine transport systems, air and seaport development, and agro-industrial hubs.