The test run and maiden voyage for the Kudat-Palawan roll on, roll off (RORO) ferry service are pushing through in April after they were delayed by typhoon Basyang in February.
Provincial information officer Gil Acosta Jr., who was Saturday’s Behind the News guest, said this after belying a March 14 news report by East Malaysia’s online Daily Express that it is “unlikely to start soon.”
“Contrary sa mga lumalabas na balita na hindi daw matutuloy… in fact, ‘yong last na schedule natin, hindi natuloy dahil sa wishes na rin natin (provincial government) dahil nga nagkaroon ng bagyo. Inaayos lang yng certain papers, pero go, go na tayo dyan,” he said.
Acosta said the provincial government is looking forward to the dry run since many of its livelihood programs are anchored on the ferry service that would link the Philippines and Malaysia.
“In fact, tayo inaabangan na talaga natin kasi yong ating mga livelihood programs doon nakakabit sa papunta sa Kudat in terms of pag-aalaga ng kambing,” he added.
The sea link, which would be serviced by Archipelago Philippine Ferries Corporation’s (APFC) FastCat, was supposed to conduct the test run in September 2017.
However, it was postponed to December also last year, and again in February this year, due to tropical storm Basyang’s onslaught in Palawan.
He disclosed that the delays were not caused by serious problems in documents and permits, but by unavoidable situations like weather disturbances.
“I think it will be in April. Dalawa kasi ang trips, first, ‘yong dry run na tao ng gobyerno para makita ‘yong kaligtasan at saka ‘yong safety ng travel. After that, [it] would be ‘yong maiden voyage natin, para at least, tayo makasama sa media, para makita natin ‘yong ease ng travel at saka ‘yong propriety na puwede talagang pumunta doon sa Sabah,” said Acosta.
On security measures, he explained that the Kudat-Palawan RORO that would leave from the Port of Buliluyan, Bataraza, is well-coordinated with the PNP Maritime Group, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and other law enforcement agencies.
“Nakipag-coordinate naman tayo for safety measures sa maritime ng PNP, at saka sa ating mga sundalo na bago talaga magkaroon ng scheduled cruise ay maayos lahat,” he said.
He assured that all security and safety concerns and measures have already been thought of and set up, particularly around island areas in Bataraza and Balabac to prevent any incident from happening.
“Kasi nga isang insidente lang ay damay ang buong lalawigan,” said Acosta, to address fears that violent extremism may derail the operation of the ferry service link.
“Ang dami ng nag-aabang doon kaya it’s high time na maayos na iyong trade, at saka yong documentation ng mga Filipino na pumupunta sa kabilang ibayo,” added Acosta.
The Daily Express news article that was published online quoted businessman-politician Thomas Tsen in saying that he was informed that “the Philippine-based operator of the ferry service, together with their local counterparts, are facing difficulties in complying with the necessary requirements and permits.”
Tsen was further mentioned in stating that the much-awaited sea link has been postponed four times, and is now dragging despite public announcements of the parties concerned.
Tsen is the treasurer of the Parti Kerjasama Anak Negeri and its Kudat Branch chief.