Thursday, January 7, 2010

Pagadian-Cotabato sea route closes

WHAT could have been a renewed domestic sea travel between Pagadian and Cotabato cities has yet again shut down due to "unfavorable business conditions."

An official from the Port Management Office of the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), who requested anonymity, told this paper in an interview that M/L Putri-I have ceased operations for two months already.

The said official mentioned her sadness why M/L Putri has ceased operations when the number of frequenting passengers is already picking up in the past months.

She further speculated the improved road network and logistics corridor of Zamboanga Peninsula and Cotabato as well as travel convenience and minimal bus fares may have enticed passengers to travel by land and this probably affected M/L Putri’s operations.

Several travelling businessmen likewise told this paper that had M/L Putri’s undertaking prospered, interchange or tradeoff of local products such as dried fish, fruits, vegetables and grains could have been boosted.

M/L Putri-I, which started its ship call to Pagadian last July, announced its formal maiden voyage last Oct. 6 with a one-way fare rate of only P250, leaving Pagadian for Cotabato every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 10:00 in the morning and vice versa every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

The M/L Putri-I weighes a gross tonnage of 228.76, is manned by a crew of 12 and powered by two Cummins/Isuzu V12 engines with 350 horse power.

Mayor Samuel Co, who led the motor lanch’s inauguration, said the M/L Putri will strengthen the already thriving trade ties of the two cities.

The mayor added that sea vessel’s presence likewise will be an alternative choice for travelers who want to take a trip to General Santos and Davao cities aside from travelling by bus or commuter vans.

But again, hopes of spreading the good news of M/L Putri’s service to the public are hold in balance after the PPA said, quoting an official communication from M/L Putri’s management office in Cotabato, that the cause of the motor lanch’s break in operations was due to its engines presently undergoing repairs.

It was learned that the city seaport closed down sometime in 2002 due to the dwindling influx of passengers blamed on the enhanced sales promotion of buses and vans as well as the improved road network in the region.

The three competing ship owners also decided to close shop after passengers preferred to travel by land because of high arrastre fees and the unwillingness of porters to bring down their labor rates.

These sea vessels used to ferry city passengers to Zamboanga City up to Sandakan, Malaysia and the interisland routes of Jolo, Siasi, Bongao and Sitangkai.

In the coming months, Co disclosed that the city government will run its own sea cargo handling business using rented cargo ships or freighters that will carry goods and materials from Pagadian to any port in the country.

With this, Co said the rented freighters will be able to handle the bulk of the merchandise deliveries to and from Manila as well as address other logistical problems of the city.