By Alma Argayoso / TSO, PTIC Jakarta
THE Philippines and Indonesia are among the member-states in the Asean looking to boost bilateral economic relations from enhanced connectivity in the region.
The Asean has long recognized that enhancing intraregional connectivity through improved physical, institutional and people-to-people linkages will further facilitate trade, promote economic growth, narrow development gaps and contribute to the overall goal of economic integration.
With this in mind, the regional bloc’s Master Plan on Asean Connectivity (MPAC) was adopted on October 28, 2010, through the Hanoi Declaration. Following a comprehensive review of the MPAC implementation, a successor document to the previous strategic document was adopted on September 6, 2016, with the new Master Plan on Asean Connectivity 2025 (MPAC 2025) outlining new strategies that will guide all future endeavors on improving connectivity in the region.
MPAC 2025 aims to achieve a seamlessly and comprehensively connected and integrated Asean that will promote competitiveness, inclusiveness and a greater sense of community. It seeks to add value by complementing and synergizing the Asean Community Blueprints 2025, and other Asean sectoral and integration work plans, as well as other sub regional and interregional frameworks.
One of the key priorities in the MPAC is physical connectivity aimed at improving the region’s infrastructure to enhance the movement of people, goods and services. Among the key actions outlined in the strategic document called for the establishment of an Asean roll-on, roll-off (Roro) Shipping Network and Short-sea Shipping focused on operationalizing any of the three priority routes (i.e., Dumai-Melaka, Belawan-Penang-Phuket and Davao/General Santos-Bitung or DGB).
In a feasibility study conducted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica); of the three identified projects, the DGB route was seen as the most feasible because of its proximity and cost-efficient means of transporting goods between the two areas.
Since 2012 private-sector players have pushed for the operationalization of the route, but policy and institutional barriers impeded the launch. However, the two countries have been earnestly working on their sea connectivity since last year and agreed to march on quickly, creating—for the purpose of operationalizing the route—an interagency task force represented by various agencies involved in transport and trade from both governments. Coordination with the private sec-tor to sustain interest and momentum and jointly work on addressing bottlenecks has also been intensified. •
To be continued