Officials of the Sabah Ports Authority (SPA) and Palawan businessmen were negotiating to start a service between Brooke’s Point in Palawan and Kudat in Sabah before the crisis broke out.
The Sabah incursion by armed Filipino Islamists to resurrect long-dormant land claims has, as of the weekend, claimed 61 lives.
Puerto Princesa port manager Luis Cuison said the Malaysians had been talking to Montenegro Shipping Lines to service the five-hour crossing between Brooke’s Point and Kudat.
Palawan is between Mindoro Island on the North, Borneo on the South, West Philippines Sea on the west, and Sulu Sea on the east.
Cuison said Montenegro Shipping is ready to deploy on the service the 490 GRT Ma. Erlinda, a passenger /ro-ro vessel capable of carrying 348 passengers. Built by Taguma Zosen K.K., the vessel was acquired on February 13, 1999. Montenegro is currently working on the vessel’s certificate of public convenience.
SPA executives, led by general manager Datuk Mayong Omar, corporate manager Mohd Hasmin Julpi, and engineer Solibang Tanjong, had met several times members of the Puerto Princesa chamber of commerce as well as customs, immigration, quarantine and security agencies.
“Mr. Mayong said the Malaysian government had already allocated 20 million Malaysian ringgit for the upgrading of the port facilities, including a ro-ro ramp in Kudat,” he said.
The negotiations have, however, not progressed since the Sabah crisis.
“We still hope that despite the recent controversy involving Filipino-Muslims in Mindanao, we can still work (this deal out) to (help boost) trade in the island provinces. The Malaysians wanted our marine products. Malaysia may bring in copra or rubber,” he said.
Brooke’s Point is serviced by chartered ships. Puerto Princesa, on the other hand, is serviced by Moreta, Meridian Liner, Lodestar, and Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corp, each of which call twice or thrice a month.
Regular callers plying Puerto Princesa, Cuyo and Iloilo are Milagrosa and Montenegro Shipping lines.
Image from www.pdosoluz.com.ph