DBP's SLDP Portfolio

Providing an alternate route to Boracay & the islands
By Earl D.C. Bracamonte

The Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) has helped make travel to Boracay as well as to the other islands around the country easier and cheaper with its Sustainable Logistics Development Program (SLDP).
“Our flagship infrastructure and logistics initiative, the SLDP, supports the Strong Republic Nautical Highway (SRNH) initiative of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo by providing financial loans for the establishment of the necessary infrastructure to move commodities and people all over the country in the most cost-efficient way possible, “ shared president & CEO Reynaldo G. David in a statement.
A major component of the SLDP is the Road Roll-On, Roll-Off Terminal System (RRTS), or more popularly known as the RORO, which employs the use of RORO vessels in transporting tourists to different islands of the country. With the RORO, easy conveyance has become possible for backpackers and people on a budget to travel to, and enjoy the white sand beaches of Boracay at the very affordable cost of P800 only! The RORO certainly appeals to tourists who want to make the most out of their vacation and money. Not only is it cheap, but the RORO allows tourists to visit as many cities and provinces as they want to. Like us, they can even bring their cars on said journeys aboard the RORO vessels.
On one such journey, we boarded the Ma. Veronica from the Batangas port en route to Calapan, Oriental Mindoro on a clear moonlit night. We were lucky to find space at the VIP Lounge, which, we were told, were given on a priority basis to those traveling with children and/or persons with disabilities. On fair weather, the initial crossing takes about two-and-a-half hours and four trips ply the route each day. The ships servicing the route are so-named after the women of the Mayflower sagala parade.
From Calapan, we traversed the sleepy towns of Mindoro, arriving at Roxas in time for breakfast. By mid-morning, we sailed anew, traversing 48 nautical miles more. This time straight to the port of Caticlan, clocking the crossing at fours hours. Trips back to Roxas starts at 4 AM from the Caticlan port and the last ferry trip leaves at either 10 PM or 12 midnight. The carrier operations personnel decide the volume of trucking and/or passengers whether a trip pushes through or is canceled. This is one of the other causes for non-conveyance other than fortuitous events or force majeure. Five vessels ply the Roxas-Caticlan route: the biggest, Ma. Xenia, who could accommodate 1,000 tonnages; the lesser vessels Ursula and Ma. Bianca; the smallest, Natasha, which can accommodate below 500 tonnages; and the plush Ma. Olivia with its fabulous VIP lounge. The latter, we rode on our trip to Boracay.
“Very few seamen prefer plying the Philippine seas, most want to work aboard foreign vessels. Me, and a few others, decided to return home and be with our families while still working as seafarers. There are 562 seats in a ship. The hull can accommodate 13 buses and their passengers or 50 to 60 private vehicles. Should there be a mix of both public and private carriers, only 21 of these vehicles will be allowed at any given time ,” apprised ship captain Wally De Guzman, after touring us around the captain's deck.
“Lent and the Christmas season are the peak traveling months. The lean season starts when school opens and the Habagat winds start to blow. Ships are dry-docked once every two years. After thorough inspection, the Philippine Registry of Shipping hands its evaluation to the Marina on the ships sea-worthiness. It is from these documents that banks like DBP consider loans on the vessel. Repairs and maintenance plus good engines lengthen the sailing life of a ship. After 3,000 hours of sailing time, a seaman becomes a master mariner. He now has the option to take the PRC Licensure Examination to be a chief mate or simply continue sailing for two more years to get the same,” he added.
Aside from transportation, DBP has also been actively involved in financing social services and community development initiatives such as tourism-related projects. “Our funding of the Red Coconut Beach Hotel in Boracay underscores our commitment in helping the tourism sector, particularly in putting up the necessary infrastructure to make our country a more viable destination for both local and foreign visitors,” added the bank's chief executive.
“The Garden View has been one of the landmarks of the island, being the third property to cater to tourists more than 25 years ago by Connie & Luc Helgen. Their subsequent property, the Red Coconut, has added nine superior rooms bringing the room total from 45 to 54,” enthused general manager Mike Schitzius.
“A new property has just been acquired for expansion projects; in the pipeline is the creation of a new resort hotel. Fortunately, we were not affected by the worldwide Citibank snowball nor the onslaught of typhoon Ondoy.
“The roster of our guests are mainly Filipinos (80 percent) then Americans, Russians and other Europeans. Koreans take the 5th spot in our visitors list. We enjoy a high rate of patronage from returning guests. In turn, we do regular renovations to live up to their expectations. Majority of our guest feedback point to the satisfactory service of our staff. Most of those who tell us they would come back, actually do. We have the best location; next to the mall and the beachfront. We take part in the weekly beach clean-up initiated by the Boracay Foundation Inc. (BFI). In fact, we even donated a sea plane for the coral reef restoration,” Mike intoned.
Owner Connie Helgen still tends the hotel gardens of both the Red Coconut and Garden View hotels as she has been doing in years past. You'll spot her in either property, tending the vegetation as only a green thumb can do.
Aside from the Batangas-Calapan and Roxas-Caticlan-Iloilo route, the RORO vessels also service the Bacolod-Cebu-Palawan, Matnog (Sorsogon) - Allen (Samar) as well as the Masbate-Sorsogon routes among many others; connecting the islands closer through land and water travel, and in the process see the many vistas and panoramic views along the way.
At present, there are more than 50 ships sailing all over the archipelago, servicing the Philippine nautical highway; making travel a breeze for both islanders and tourists alike, taking them to their destinations, one ship at a time.

Comments

  1. We were supposed to visit another DBP-funded property, the Discovery Shores resort hotel. But we were told the management canceled our meeting at the last minute. No reasons were given why they did not honor the agreement; nor was there any apology extended. They just assumed we (journalists from Phil. Daily Inquirer, Manila Bulletin and Daily Tribune) would take the time off from our precious weekend to sail the high seas, boarding the Roro vessel twice (Batangas to Calapan; then Roxas to Caticlan) plus the long road trips in between, reaching our destination sleepless, and be nonchalant about it.

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