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Davao City – A new player in the BIMP-EAGA sub-regional cooperation shipping service, Reefer Pilipinas Express Line started its trial sail of the Davao–Bitung sea route early this week, signaling the revival of the Mindanao-North Sulawesi route.
BIMP-EAGA stands for Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia Philippines-East ASEAN Growth Area, a sub-regional cooperation formed in 1994 to accelerate development of member-countries’ focus areas through cross-border economic integration.

The maiden voyage for the Davao-General Santos-Bitung route was inaugurated by Presidents Rodrigo Roa Duterte and Joko Widodo last April 2017, as a side event to the ASEAN Leaders Summit.

“It can be recalled that the first vessel used for the route was too large at 500 
Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit (TEUcapacity.  We had to look for a more smaller vessel to continue the operation of the DGB route,” said Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) Deputy Executive Director Romeo Montenegro.

Reefer Filipinas is a Manila-based company recently established to support the Philippines in reviving the route. The company will be utilizing a conventional type vessel with load capacity up of to 290 TEU containers, and 10,000 loose cargoes. 

For its first sail, the shipping service started off at Ho Chi Minh Port last June 16, traversing Malaysia’s Labuan and Sepanggar, and Indonesia’s Bitung and Ternate, before docking at Davao City’s Kudos Port on July 06. The company is expecting to make calls at the General Santos port on its second sail.

“We found the right model to support the BIMP-EAGA trade, and are now expanding it to the larger ASEAN with the inclusion of Ho Chi Minh city to our route plan,” said Felix Ishizuka, Reefer Filipinas CEO, adding that their primary goal is to “help create more trading activities in the sub-region by providing the right service.”

The expanded DGB route will take less than three days to reach Bitung, Indonesia from Davao City excluding port stay, while the Manila-Bitung route takes three to five weeks of shipping time, according to Ishisuka.

 “I call on our traders and business players in Mindanao to explore this faster, cheaper, and more direct shipping service. We need to ensure product exchange for the service be sustained,” said MinDA Chairman-OIC Nathaniel Dalumpines, who also sits as the Philippine Signing Minister for BIMP-EAGA.

Dalumpines added that various outbound trade missions to Jakarta and North Sulawesi have been initiated by the Mindanao private sector and concerned government agencies, including Department of Trade and Industry, MinDA, and Philippine Embassy in Indonesia to identify prospective traders who can make use of the route.

Davao business sector support
“We look forward to the upcoming resurgence of the DGB route. This will strengthen our Philippines and Indonesia trading blocs especially with the support of the BIMP-EAGA and ASEAN,” said Dr. Malou Monteverde, former president of Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCCII) and one of the primary proponents of the sea route.

Among the initial goods to be exported from Davao are fresh fruits, activated carbon, automotive battery, food stuffs, and animal feeds.

DCCCII President Art Milan likewise expressed support for the initial sale of Reefer Express Lines.

“We are committed to helping sustain this route. The upcoming 2019 Davao Investment Conference, the biennial business and investment promotions event organized by Davao Chamber, would be a great opportunity for us to, once again, encourage investors and traders for this route,” Milan said.

The DGB route was selected as one of the three pilot areas for RoRo operation under JICA’s Feasibility Study on the Establishment of the ASEAN RORO Network, which started in 2012 and was finalized in March 2013.

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