THE town of Liloan will open Cebu’s first smart port this month, with its Pier 88 Port set to serve commuters in Cebu and other provinces in the Visayas.
As shown in the town’s 2023 fiesta activities posted on Liloan Mayor Aljew Frasco’s social media page, the launching of Pier 88 Port is set on Saturday, May 27, 2023.
Located in Barangay Poblacion, Pier 88 Port is expected to serve travelers going in and out of Cebu mainland via Liloan to Metro Cebu, the Camotes group of islands, and Bohol and Leyte provinces, Cebu Fifth District Rep. Vincent Franco “Duke” Frasco said in a Facebook post on Wednesday, May 17.
The approximately three-hectare smart port will help decongest traffic in Metro Cebu, particularly Consolacion and Mandaue City, by providing an alternative mode of transport from Liloan to Mactan and Cebu City and vice versa.
“The Port will significantly cut travel time, alleviating the difficulties of the traveling public from the northern parts of Metro Cebu who commute daily on the way to their respective workplaces in the cities of Mandaue, Lapu-Lapu and Cebu,” Frasco said.
Topline Group of Companies, the developer, will also be the operator of the new port.
Pier 88 is an over P1 billion public-private partnership between the Municipality of Liloan and private firms Pier 88 Ventures Inc., Topline Group of Companies, Viking Land and FL Port Management Corp.
As a smart port, it will integrate digital technology in its operations by using QR codes and a radio frequency identification-ready (RFID) system to be integrated in a mobile application, providing passengers seamless and convenient traveling.
New routes to Camotes
Several shipping firms have already expressed interest in operating passenger and cargo vessels at Pier 88, namely, OceanJet and Super Shuttle Roro.
The port was initially slated to open on April 20; however, this was put on hold.
The shallow condition of the port’s berthing space posed a challenge in accommodating the big roll-on, roll-off (roro) vessels of Super Shuttle Ferry, which would transport passengers and cargoes, including trucks and buses, to and from Camotes via Poro town, Eugene Erik Lim, chief executive officer of Pier 88 Ventures Inc. and Topline Group of Companies, told Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia in a meeting last April 19, as reported by Capitol’s media arm, Sugbo News.
In a separate meeting with Garcia on Monday, May 15, OceanJet officials headed by Bryan Lua said they would conduct a “sea trial” on Wednesday, May 17, using their 350-passenger ferry sailing to and from Liloan to Poro Port in Camotes.
The test run will determine the travel time and the fare matrix between Liloan and the Camotes Islands, with OceanJet expecting travel time of one hour and 30 minutes at a speed of 22 knots or 40 kilometers per hour.
Paul Rodriguez of Super Shuttle Roro also expressed interest to ply the Liloan-Camotes route via Poro Port with Vallacar Transit, operator of Ceres buses, opening a new route from the Cebu mainland to Camotes on board the roro vessel, according to the Cebu Provincial Government.
Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board in Central Visayas Director Eduardo Montealto Jr. told SunStar Cebu on Tuesday, May 16 that the agency will be issuing special permits for the aforementioned bus routes.
He added that the new route is now included in Cebu Province’s Local Public Transport Route Plan or LPTRP.
Garcia hopes that the new route to the Camotes Islands will bolster its tourism, following the Camotes run of the Suroy-Suroy Sugbo last April 15-16.
The Camotes Islands refer to the islands in the Camotes Sea that are home to the municipalities of San Francisco, Poro, Pilar and Tudela in Cebu’s fifth district.
A ferry system called Topline Seabus in partnership with Topline Express will be established with trips from Liloan to Cebu City and Liloan to Lapu-Lapu City and vice versa.
This will shorten the travel time of commuters from the usual two-hour land trip to about 30-45 minutes by sea.
“Not only will passengers be relieved of the stress and anxiety due to traffic, passengers will be able to relax knowing departure and arrival times are more certain while they take in the fresh sea breeze while aboard the ferries. Once they arrive in Mactan island or Cebu City, the passengers are just walking distance to the Mepz (Mactan Export Processing Zone) and downtown Cebu City,” Frasco said on Nov. 3, 2020 after construction on the port began.
The Topline Seabus passenger vessel can accommodate 150 passengers. There will be two routes: Liloan-Mactan route, with the vessel docking at Mactan Wharf near the Mactan Economic Zone (former name Mactan Export Processing Zone), and Liloan-Cebu City route, with the vessel docking at Cebu City Pier 3.
It is expected to be beneficial to workers living in the northern part of Cebu while working in Cebu City and the Mactan Economic Zone.
In March 2020, it was estimated that the Mactan Economic Zones 1 and 2 and the Cebu Light Industrial Park in Lapu-Lapu City, Mactan had 100,000 workers combined.
Aside from providing another means of transportation, Pier 88 Port will serve as an economic catalyst not only for Liloan but also the neighboring municipality of Compostela, the City of Danao, and the rest of northern Cebu, Frasco added.
The three-phase port and commercial development project is a mixed-use development that will include not only a port but also a mall, restaurants, and leisure and commercial spaces for lease. This development is expected to create more jobs for the residents of Liloan and neighboring towns.
The project was first conceptualized in 2015 when Frasco was Liloan mayor, and approved in 2017, when Frasco became commissioner of the Cebu Port Authority.
Construction started on Oct. 22, 2019, and on Oct. 24, 2021 the causeway or the road leading to the port, was inaugurated.