February debut for Palawan ferry service
Published on: Thursday, December 28, 2017
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Kota Kinabalu: The much-awaited Roll-On, Roll-Off (RoRo) catamaran ferry service connecting Kudat and Palawan in the Philippines via Buliluyan Port will begin in February next year. It was initially supposed to be at the end of this year.Special Tasks Minister Datuk Seri Teo Chee Kang said Kudat and Palawan are ready and have equipped their respective jetties with the necessary infrastructure such as special ramp.

"Kudat is ready for implementation of this project that will bring win-win benefit to both sides where our Customs, Immigration, Quarantine and Security (CIQS) centre had been put in place at the Kudat port, four years ago.

"In addition, we have constructed a ramp in Kudat port especially to cater for the ferry.

"I am pleased to acknowledge that the Palawan government is also ready with their jetty and a concrete road has been constructed linking Buliluyan all the way up to Palawan's coastal city, Puerto Princesa and northern part of the island for the visitors and tourists to visit the place comfortably," he said.

Teo, who is also Tanjong Kapor Assemblyman in Kudat, said this to reporters after chairing a discussion on the proposed RoRo service at the State Administration Building Centre (PPNS), Wednesday.

Palawan Governor Jose Chaves Alvarez was present as well as BIMP-EAGA Regional Chairman Datuk Roselan Juhar and other senior officials from Sabah Ports Sdn Bhd and Suria Capital.

According to Teo, they would propose to start with passengers first and non-motorised vehicles such as bicycles that are not bound by Road Transport Department (RTD) regulation and also authorities in Palawan.

"When the time comes, we hope to iron out all these issues with regards to motorised vehicles as in Kudat, the vehicles are on right-hand driving while vehicles in Palawan are left-hand driving and both sides need to get clearance from the authority concerned before the vehicles are allowed to go in and out from both countries.

"After all these issues are tackled, it would not be long to realise our dream to drive from Kuching, Sarawak to Kota Kinabalu, Kudat, Palawan and to Manila because all islands are linked via the RoRo ferry in the Philippines.

"This is very much in line with the policies set by Asean to have Asean community to work and prosper together as well as in line with initiative of BIMP-EAGA which I am very excite," he said.

Teo said they would organise a trial run for the Manila-based ferry operator soon to ensure smooth implementation of the service when comes to full operation.

Alvarez said the trial run was supposed to begin this month but had to be stopped due to weather condition and some official documentation.

To a question, Teo said so far only one operator from a Manila-based company Archipelago Philippines Ferries Corporation (APFC) has put in the proposal to be the operator that runs a catamaran ferry with maximum capacity of 275 passengers, 35 vehicles and 12 lorries.

At this juncture, Alvarez said the ferry is a brand new vessel named as Fast Cat (Fast Catamaran) and designed in Australia but built in China and the journey would take about six hours.

The ferry would depart from Palawan in the morning and arrive in Kudat around noon before returning to Palawan before sunset.

On the ferry fares, Alvarez said the amount had yet been decided by the concerned authorities and will be made known to public later on.

As for the media from Malaysia including Sabah and Sarawak, he said it would be free.

For a start, Teo said the RoRo service project would use one ferry and increase the number if there is demand.

"We received the formal proposal from the operator in October, this year, and the State Economic Planning Unit called for meetings with stakeholders and relevant government agencies like Immigration Department, Agriculture Department, Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom), Sabah Security Council (SSC), and Transport Ministry, among others.

"The response and comments from various agencies so far has been very positive and encouraging..

"We are quite positive that with this sea connectivity between Kudat and Palawan will be able to complement each other in terms of boosting our tourist arrival and we can tap on tap on the potential of both areas and supplement each other," Teo said.

Upon receiving feedbacks from all relevant government departments and agencies, he said a paper will be tabled to the State Cabinet for the final decision.

Teo said tourists would also able to see three world heritage sites in Palawan, Sabah and Sarawak which could be selling points in creating a tourism package for them to visit Palawan and both states, in the region.

He said there is one of seven world wonders in Palawan which is an underground river at Puerto Princesa and a world heritage site while Sabah has the Mount Kinabalu and Sarawak has the Mulu cave, both are declared as world heritage sites for Malaysia.

He said the presence of Alvarez in the meeting here showed the political will of Palawan and the Philippines as well as Sabah government is strong to realise the project that will boost the tourism and bilateral trade activities between them.

Teo also hopeful that the direct connection would help spur trade activities between Sabah and Palawan.

"Our small and medium-sized entrepreneurs (SMEs) would able to import maybe raw materials from Palawan to build up their industries in the State and on the Palawan side, they may want to buy some items from us such as vegetable, hardware products, construction materials, cement and other things," he said.

Meanwhile Roselan told the reporters that Malaysia should emulate the Palawan effort in processing and putting value add to their fruits such as mangoes where it is processed into dried fruit and exporting them to countries that have demand for such product.

This is because, he said a lot of fruits trees in Malaysia are eaten fresh and never been processed to have commercial value.

However, Roselan said he hoped that Philippines and Palawan governments can confirm when they can eradicate the legal problems affecting mango products as the fruit cannot be allowed to be exported.

"It is also good opportunity for Malaysia to learn from the Philippines on planting bananas because the Philippines have spent a lot of money in doing research and development for the fruit as plantation of bananas in the peninsula has ended up the fruit infected by diseases.

"At the same time, we are making a new port at Sapanggar Bay Container Terminal and this expansion will require new export of agriculture products such as bananas, pineapples and corns.

These are imported products that we must grow in Sabah or we can export via Kota Kinabalu port.

"In fact, Kota Kinabalu port is expecting 1.2 million Twenty Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) and at the moment, we are only handling 300,000 TEUs which is predominantly imports. So it is high time for us to inject ourselves and go into agriculture to produce the imports," he said. - Hayati Dzulkifli


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