By Celeste Anna R. Formoso (PNA)
Finally, after waiting for so long, sea connectivity between Palawan and the neighboring countries of Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, and Malaysia will get a boost Thursday when the first-ever vessel under the BIMP-East ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Growth Area leaves the port of the southern town of Brooke’s Point.
“At last, after waiting for 20 years, it’s happening; the sea link between Palawan and our neighbors in the BIMP-EAGA will now come to life when our first-ever vessel goes to Kudat in the state of Sabah, East Malaysia on Thursday,” said Wednesday by Brooke’s Point Mayor Mary Jean Feliciano to the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in a phone interview.
Brooke’s Point, a first class municipality located south of the province, and named after Sir James Brooke, a British adventurer, whose exploits in the Malay Archipelago made him the first White Rajah of Sarawak, is one of two areas in the Philippines, where sea networks have been established to improve trade and tourism among four member countries.
On Thursday, April 16, 2015, Feliciano said cargo vessel Princess Beatrice will set sail for the first time from the port of Brooke’s Point in Barangay Buligay to Kudat, Sabah, East Malaysia with raw palm oil products.
“When it returns from Kudat, it will also be bringing consumer goods here and others,” said Feliciano, whose excitement could not be hidden.
“Our town has been waiting for this for a long time. If I am not mistaken, this plan took off during the time of former president Fidel Ramos. After a few governors, now it’s finally happening through Governor (Jose) Alvarez’s persistent follow ups,” she said.
Feliciano said that the trip of Princess Beatrice is just the initial. What the provincial government is after, she said, is the eventual establishment of the Brooke’s Point-Kudat RORO (roll-on, roll off) service that shall bring tourists from Malaysia to Palawan to other parts of the country as a “gateway.”
“This is the start; we will check what the reception is, and maybe after five or six trips by the cargo vessel, the roll-on, roll-off service will come next,” she said, stating further that residents of Brooke’s Point are excited about the recent development.
She added that many Brooke’s Point residents are working in Malaysia, and if the RORO service becomes available, it would become easier for them to travel back home to their families.
Foreign tourists visiting Malaysia and its states, she said, can also have the opportunity to visit the Philippines through Palawan.
“Aside from trade opportunities, the sea connectivity will also present us with tourism prospects, particularly that our target is to help the country reach its goal of 10 million tourists within the next few years, and is important in the regional economic intergration,” the lady mayor said.
The sea connectivity will play a vital role in the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), which is aimed at “implementing certain initiatives to achieve a single market and production base, allowing the free flow of goods, services, investments, and skilled labor, and the freer movement of capital across the region.
The areas of cooperation of the AEC include “human resources development and capacity building; recognition of professional qualifications; closer consultation on macroeconomic and financial policies; trade financing measures; enhanced infrastructure and communications connectivity; development of electronic transactions through e-ASEAN; integrating industries across the region to promote regional sourcing; and enhancing private sector involvement for the building of the AEC.”
The port of Brooke’s Point is located 192 kilometers south of Puerto Princesa. Daily, it handles consumer goods, construction materials and products of agricultural and mining industries, and links the province to Cagayan de Tawi-Tawi, General Santos City, and Dipolog.
It has a listed commercial area of 2,329.51 square meters and operational area of 15,823.18 sq. m., or a total port area of 18,152.69 sq.m.
The port reportedly has an RC wharf of 12 meter wide by 60 meter long connected to pier approach of 6 m x 190 m.; depth of 6.0 meters; and one RORO facility of 12 meters by 15 meters.
Governor Alvarez is expected to attend the send-off program for the maiden voyage to Kudat of Princess Beatrice.