The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), through its Regulatory Reform Support Program for National Development (RESPOND) project, supported the Export Development Council (EDC) and University of the Philippines Public Administration Foundation to partner with Royal Cargo and Iris Logistics to launch the first nonstop Philippine shipping service between the Philippines and the United States in decades. 

USAID Acting Mission Director Sean Callahan joined Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez, Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko” Moreno Domagoso, Royal Cargo Chairman Michael Kurt Raeuber, and other government and private sector partners for the MV Iris Paoay’s maiden voyage ceremony on September 20.

“USAID is proud to be part of this momentous occasion, an excellent way to mark our 60th year here in the Philippines, and at the same time, the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations between our two countries,” said Acting Mission Director Callahan. “We hope to foster an enabling environment for local business and to build the capacity of enterprises.”

MV Iris Paoay will be the first Philippine flag container vessel to sail nonstop from the Philippines to the U.S. West Coast and back. 

The shipping service offered by logistics firm Iris Logistics, Inc., a Royal Cargo subsidiary, is expected to reduce shipping time and ease U.S. and Philippine traders’ burdens resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

USAID worked with the EDC to organize a series of high-level discussions to find solutions to the Philippines’ high international shipping costs and inadequate vessel space, and the nonstop service was identified as one of the solutions.  This service is expected to increase the overall exchange of goods, especially highly perishable agricultural products, and enhance food security through on-time delivery of shipments. 

The Philippines is the United States’ ninth largest export market for agricultural and related products, and the United States is the second largest customer of Philippine agricultural and related exports.  Two-way trade amounted to $4.3 billion in 2020.   

According to Dr. Henry Basilio, Chairman of the EDC Networking Committee on Transport and Logistics, this initiative has inspired other local shipping lines to also consider providing regional (intra-Asian) and trans-Pacific shipping services.

For the past 60 years, USAID has partnered with the Philippine government and local organizations to achieve shared development goals, investing around Php257 billion ($5.1 billion) to support the Philippines since 1961.