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File photo of RoRo from www.dutchpickle.com

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MANILA - A private roll-on roll-off (Ro-Ro) vessel will sail from the Philippines to neighboring Indonesia by the middle of this year, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) said on Friday.

The upcoming Davao-Bitung route of the Super Shuttle Ro-Ro will be the Philippines' first Ro-Ro service to a neighboring Southeast Asian country.

PCCI said the Davao-Bitung Ro-Ro project was the result of the memorandum of cooperation signed by the business chambers of the cities of Davao and Manado, the capital of Indonesia's North Sulawesi province, during the Davao Investment Forum last November.

"The private sector has taken the lead in spearheading the implementation of the project through a bilateral arrangement between the business sector of the Philippines and Indonesia," PCCI president Miguel B. Varela said in a statement.

"[T]he initiative is a milestone in improving Asean connectivity and in expanding trade, tourism and investments in the BIMP-EAGA area," Varela said, referring to the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area.

PCCI said a study conducted by the Research Education and Institutional Development (REID) Foundation Inc noted “a thriving trade between Mindanao and North Sulawesi that would significantly benefit from the project."

According to the study, transport costs via Ro-Ro would be 5-10 percent cheaper than shipping commercial goods through wooden vessels. Transportation time would also be reduced to 36 hours from 2-3 days.

Latest data showed that North Sulawesi imported $147.932-million worth of capital and consumption goods as well as raw materials from the Philippines in 2010.

In turn, North Sulawesi exported $6.845-million worth of commodities, including coconut charcoal, copra, crude coconut oil, crude palm oil, desiccated coconut and frozen fish, to the Philippines in the same year.

PCCI said Trade Secretary Gregory L. Domingo has "welcomed the initiative and assured [PCCI] of the government’s full support."

"Definitely we want to pursue a more strategic economic relationship with Indonesia. Davao City is a good location for becoming the transshipment hub in Asia," ," Domingo was quoted by PCCI as saying.

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