by rudy bellen
Attached is an excerpt from a news article of Manila Bulletin last April 29, 2008 during the launching of the Central Nautical Highway by no less than Pres. Gloria Arroyo seeing off roll-on roll-off (Ro-Ro) three day sea caravan plying the maiden route taking off from Bulan port. This is the last leg that completes a sea route connecting Bicol and Mindanao, the final component of the Strong Republic Nautical Highway (SRNH) via the central seaboard. The other two are : 1.) Western Nautical Highway (western seaboard) via Batangas port linking Manila and Dipolog, and 2.) Eastern Nautical Highway (eastern seaboard) via Matnog connecting Samar/Leyte to Surigao City. The CNH is an intermodal transport system offering a safe, affordable transport alternative to travel across the central Philippines or the Visayas. It links Sorsogon, Masbate, Cebu, Bohol, Camiguin, and Misamis Oriental in Mindanao, it also seeks to reduce travel and trade costs and consequently boost economic development in the countryside.
–> see Manila Bulletin Online for the original of the following report:
by Genalyn D. Kabiling
“Filipinos can now enjoy a safe, affordable transport alternative to travel across the central Philippines or the Visayas. President Arroyo yesterday launched the Central Nautical Highway (CNH) that seeks to reduce travel and trade costs and consequently boost economic development in the countryside.
The Central Nautical Highway is an intermodal transport system linking Sorsogon, Masbate, Cebu, Bohol, Camiguin, and Misamis Oriental. It completes the Strong Republic Nautical Highway (SRNH) composed of 17 ports across the country, inaugurated by the President in 2003.
Accompanied by Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro R. Mendoza, transport officials, and local executives, Mrs. Arroyo kicked off a three-day sea caravan in Bulan, Sorsogon, where she switched on the lights showing the ports in the central seaboard.
Under the Central Nautical Highway, the ports are located in Bulan, Sorsogon, Masbate City, and Cawayan in Masbate; Bogo and Cebu City in Cebu, Tubigon and Jagna in Bohol, Mambajao and Benoni in Camiguin, and Balingoan, Misamis Oriental.
The President later sent off the RORO (roll on, roll off) caravan, boarded by passengers mostly members of the media, in Bulan. From Sorsogon, Mrs. Arroyo boarded a helicopter and travelled to the two ports of Masbate for similar send-off ceremonies.
The President first inaugurated the port of Masbate City, the first national port in the island province. The port exclusively handles containerized cargo among the Bicol terminals, aside from bulk commodities. Its fastcraft operations connect Bicol main with the port of Pilar, Sorsogon. “
So what does it means for us? For me, I can see a great opportunity and benefits that Bulan would gain as the main gateway to one of the most dynamic regions in the Visayas and northern Mindanao. This nautical highway has put Bulan as the most strategic location linking directly to the tourist famous destinations of Cebu, Bohol and Camiguin. It also links us directly to Misamis Oriental in northern Mindanao – site of the biggest Hanjin Heavy Industries’ (HHI) investments (a staggering US$2B), together with the other HHI facility at Subic, these investments when completed would propel the Philippines as the 3rd biggest
shipbuilder in the world just behind South Korea and Japan even surpassing Spain.
Just imagine, if the enterprising Cebuanos – comparable to Japanese, with no mango plantations yet they are best known for their dried mangoes, guitars, and other famous Cebuano products, would be directly passing Bulan, they might as well discover our native products and services which they can probably help us market through out the world. Or, help us develop our beautiful natural sites not only in Bulan but at the other places in Bicol as well, by putting up and developing tourism oriented facilities. Germans in Bohol are only confined today in their sanctuary in Panglao and other Bohol beaches but once they started to discover the beauty of Bicol they might change their mind. I was once surprised to find in the internet spectacular photos of the Butag bay and sunset at Sabang beach taken by no less than German adventurers!
This direct “contact” is not feasible before as there’s no alternative land/Ro-Ro transport to offer, Cebuanos, Boholanos and other Visayans prefer to fly or take ferries direct from Manila to their final destinations thereby bypassing Bicol. But now they have the choice and option increasing the chances of more regional trades and tourism activities subsequently capital movements that would boost economic developments. This will also open up intra regional migrations, both for Bulan and the greater Bicol area vis a vis Central Visayas and Northern Mindanao.
Let us not forget foreign tourists as well, with the big Hanjin investment at PHIVIDEC, Misamis Oriental, expect a throng of Koreans and other nationalities excitingly discovering this part of the country – and what does it means for us? Well, this is another opportunity to take advantage of, for us to globalize our products and services catering to international customers and so on. There is a never ending prospect for us!
This is exactly what I told Letty in my response to her Kabatas’ blog on her gripes about the status of Bulan today, that there are now lots of strangers and “invaders”. I informed her that this is the strength of our town – a local melting pot, naturally and strategically situated at the crossroads of an important, very dynamic region, they know there is an opportunity. That this is a challenge for the local leadership to hasten, tap and reap the benefits of the blended talents of the local and “migrants” and transform our town to be one of the most vibrant, prosperous and flourishing trading post in our region.
What should be done? There are lots of things to do if we don’t want to miss this once a in a lifetime opportunity. First we must get our acts together. We need to apply the three C’s of progress – Collaborate, Complement and Cooperate.
· Collaborate – Team up, this call for the public and private sector to work together in partnership. Be proactive. Put first things first and begin with the end mind – no place for lapses, blunder and oversight.
· Complement – Harmonize and supplement, make up for the weakness of the other. Seek first to understand then to be understood. Instead of opposing and rivalry that would create hostile environment, identify strength and niche products or services specific to a place that would give rise to specialization and originality.
· Cooperate – Assist, pool resources, do your part, synergize.
Another C to watch out is competition, be prepared and organize ourselves for a tough and challenging competition from other contenders. Though Bulan is the official designated CNH Ro-Ro port, Pilar town is aggressively gearing up themselves as an alternative route of the CNH, its fastcraft operations connect Bicol main with the ports of Masbate city or Aroroy town. While they have fastcrafts Bulan has nothing to speak of.
Second, we must educate our people and make liquid clear the importance of being a tourist or stranger friendly citizens. This negative trait of some of our folks has been with us ever since. I remember one time on one of my occasional break when I went home together with my wife and daughter; we took a bus and upon arrival at the Bulan bus terminal the usual boorish “baggage” boys were banging each other to get first and grabbed our luggage. My wife and daughter were so shocked and afraid so I have to step up and threatened them; coincidentally I was sporting a short cut hair then, they thought I was a military man and they backed off. But the experience doesn’t stop there, after several days of our stay; there was news of a man from Masbate who ran amock at the market. The poor man was “pushed to the wall” by successive depressing events that happened to him – he is traveling back home because his wife passed away, he and his daughters did not catch the last trip to the island and was forced to sleep and wait for the next day trip at the bus terminal, when they woke up, their belongings were nowhere to be found. He reported the incident to the police but instead of helping him, he was passed around and worst of all his young daughters were harassed and molested by the ill mannered “baggage” boys. So there he goes, he went wild and stab every person in his way.
If you have spent some vacation trip at Bohol, there you’ll discover the true meaning of tourist friendly phrase. Hotel staff would politely refuse any form of tips; folks are so friendly and always ready to assist any stranger in their community.
What do we have to offer? I think we have ample natural and human resources readily available for development and advancement. Butandings (whale sharks) is not exclusive to Donsol alone; we have plenty of it in our waters too. These gentle giants are not confined at Sorsogon bay for their food requirement, in fact they are grazing outside of the bay and most are in Ticao Pass because their food (planktons and small shrimps) are carried upstream by the converging Pacific Ocean and China sea in San Bernardino Strait. Many of our fishermen can attest to this phenomenon. We also have the giant Pasa-pasa (Manta Rays) and plenty of it is right in our waters.
We have beautiful and unique (margaja sand) beaches from Danao all the way to Marinab, there are exciting diving sites, too, especially in the Butag bay. Possibly under our waters were old age shipwrecks – from Spanish to WWII eras which are a main draw for the diving enthusiasts. Maybe we can convince tours and travel agencies to put Bulan (and Sorsogon province) in their radar maps for their tourist promos as an alternative to other known and crowded beaches of the country.
We have an airstrip that should have been fully maximized instead of being a grazing place for the carabaos (some portions were already converted to rice paddies). This is one asset that other towns doesn’t have aside from Bacon, and should be an enticing factor for those who don’t want to travel overland from Manila all the way down to Bulan. Small aircrafts and STOL (short take off/landing) crafts can easily be accommodated by this facility. I can still remember when Air Force can even land their cargo planes on it. Maybe some enterprising entrepreneurs can start a chartering business for this purpose.
Other things to remember. We should also learn from the experience of other towns, like Matnog – it is one of the first municipalities to have the Ro-Ro facility and has been there for some time now, but no significant progress has been achieved by the town. Why? We should gain knowledge and be taught from their failures, acquire and leverage from the know how and technology of the progressive ones.
As a logistics person, I recognize and see a need for support facilities for the Ro-Ro port to operate efficiently. I think the controversial Bulan Central Terminal (BCT) has its function and purpose after all. But from my point of view, I cannot see the relevance – in any way I look at it, how it would best support the Ro-Ro port from its current site. It is too far! The ideal site should be right beside the port so the arriving and departing passengers would not be inconveniently shuttling or going back and forth. This will irritate the exhausted travelers, besides being time consuming additional expenses would be incurred by the passengers just to catch up with connecting rides. It can be also a temporary holding area for the cars and buses that are waiting for their turn to board Ro-Ro ships, eliminating long queues and crowding of vehicle thereby resulting to a smooth and efficient port operation.
Lastly, I see a need to relocate the port in five years time or less with an assumption that there would be an unprecedented growth in the number of travelers. The port should be relocated outside of the town proper with enough provisions and support facilities to encourage and promote continued usage. The current road leading to the facility is too narrow and not adequate enough to sustain the volume of vehicles that would be traveling to and from the docks. This would create congestions and gridlock
I know this is only a fraction of a long list of what to do and what do we have and may have forgotten other things that should be done to make our town an organized, equipped and a prepared community for the forthcoming progress. You may add other relevant infos and suggestions that would be of help.
I firmly believe that our town has a bright future and it is starting to manifest now.
Bless us all.