Written by Rey Anthony Chiu
Philippine News Agency - Bohol
After almost a year when people thought the one-liner was just plain and simple empty political ego-trip, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo again came to prove doubters wrong.
On her Bohol trip April 29, the facing image of PGMA still waving along with a flank of government officials on board the Super Shuttle Ferry 12 to Mambajao in Camiguin, is enough proof that nautically connecting Bohol to Camiguin can be done.
The president, in possibly her briefest engagement here, led the caravan of tour buses and coasters through Bohol's coastal highways to fulfill the remaining legs of a journey that spans Luzon to Mindanao. The journey is through the ambitious project of uniting country's archipelagic divide with one Strong Republic Nautical Highway (SRNH).
Last May 9, 2007, PGMA also came to this southeastern town to inaugurate the P60.39M port. She also taped the SRNH infomercial with Radio TV Malacanang. The television commercial was to mark the 4th year after the government set the SRNH on sails.
Now, to realize the infomercial, at the Jagna port, she witnessed the turning over of the Certificate of Public Convenience (CPC) by MARINA Administrator Vicente Suazo to Asia Marine Transport and Shipping (AMTS) President Paul Rodriguez shortly after the caravan rolled to a stop here.
AMTS new CPC would be its franchise using its Super Shuttle Ferries to operate the Jagna-Mambajao route.
"AMTS would be fielding a regular daily ferry schedule to Mambajao starting next week, in time for the fiesta month in Bohol," AMTS Business Development manager Lowell Elim said.
First, it would be missionary types of trips, but we have earlier studied its feasibility and with tourism in Bohol and Camiguin, it may not be long when the route would be a money-maker, he hinted.
To complete the infomercial, two Roll-On Roll-Off (Ro-Ro) ferries moored at the port acted as background to the route opening ceremonies and the turn-over rites.
As PGMA completed the taping in full air of professionalism last year, she so led the rites deftly in a little over ten minutes.
At that window of time however, the people here saw "full threshold of infinite possibilities for tourism, trade and commerce with Camiguin and the whole of the land of promise: Mindanao," Boholanos said.
"The President took her entire cabinet into an inauguration run for the Central Seaboard of the SRNH to let her key advisers see the realization of a project that she calls "the backbone of trade from Mindanao to the Visayas to Luzon," said Secretary Eduardo Ermita in an press conference a few minutes before the caravan came.
She, who was joined by her cabinet, has kept on encouraging people to take the Ro-Ro as it is dependable and affordable. This she has been saying since her infomercial started coming out May 12 of last year.
The Ro-Ro, which she claimed is "dependable and affordable" can bring down the costs of transport of goods and facilitates fast movement of services.
The President also claimed that the Ro-Ro "is the backbone of trade from Mindanao to the Visayas to Luzon" as it has kept the cost of food down as well as improved the lives of farmers.
The Jagna engagement however is just another of the caravan's stop in Bohol.
Earlier, the President joined the SRNH caravan from Cebu when she boarded the lead bus after landing via a helicopter in Tubigon and leading the caravan welcome rites there.
Bohol leg is just part of the Central Seaboard nautical route which started in Bulan, Sorsogon through Masbate, Cebu and took a turn to Tubigon, Bohol two days after it took off from Legazpi in Albay.
"The SRNH caravan is proving to us that greater inter-island transport mobility and accessibility can be done but only after leaders can cast politics aside in favor of service," a Jagna port vendor said while showing a new Ro-Ro for GMA white cap.
PGMA landed in Tubigon at 11:45 and joined the caravan of tour buses testing the nautical route.
Clad in navy blue t-short and dark pants, the President looked confident as she got off the yellow and white Ceres Tour bus in the Jagna Port at 2:55 PM.
As this happened, more of the residents here believe that the new route may not be much of economic but tourism booster in the Visayas.
The Central Visayas, is considered as the country's "tourism center" in the Administration's super regions economic development plan.
The SRNH was conceptualized to interconnect by land and sea the island provinces of the country through Ro-Ro and cargo vessels, ferry boats, fastcraft and other modes of land transportation.
In Bohol too, the SRNH punctuates the Administration's effort to spur development by investing in key infrastructure to make small economy work and sustain itself.