Questions have been raised over the delayed launch of a new ferry linking Bataraza town, Palawan, with Kudat in Sabah.
As we reported last year, the international service was due to connect the Philippines with Malaysian Borneo from last December. This was then rescheduled for February, but again delayed due to bad weather.
Now, Palawan provincial information officer Gil Acosta has said the roll-on-roll-off ferry will make its maiden voyage next month.
However, Sabah’s Daily Express has reported this week that the service is unlikely to start soon.
The English-language newspaper says that parties who initiated the venture were facing a “black wall” in complying with requirements imposed by national and state authorities.
Kudat businessman-cum-politician Thomas Tsen urged all sides to push the project forward, pointing to substantial investments made in his town’s port. “Hence, I strongly urge both the state and national governments to urgently intervene and address whatever problems causing the delay of the noble project for the benefit of the people in Kudat and Sabah in general,” he said.
However, Palawan provincial information officer Gil Acosta has disputed this version of events.
He said: “Contrary to the recent news that claimed it will not push through, it will push through. Our last schedule was cancelled only because of our own hesitation when there was a tropical storm [Basyang] in Palawan. It’s a go for us,” he said.
Acosta added that Archipelago Philippine Ferries Corporation, the operator of FastCat, was just sorting out “certain papers” to ensure that travel would be smooth when it finally leaves the port of Buliluyan, Bataraza town, next month.
Sabah used to have a direct flight connecting Kota Kinabalu and Palawan’s Puerto Princesa, but this was cancelled in 2014 due to lack of passengers.
Howard Stanton, the owner of the award-winning Tampat Do Aman, a jungle and beach resort near Kudat, described the new service as a “game changer”.
“This has been in the planning for about three years now, and is going to be a game changer for tourism here, particularly at the Tip of Borneo.
“While I don’t expect it will bring in hordes of visitors, it will make it much easier for those who want to experience our tranquil, unspoiled region to get here.”