PRESIDENT Ferdinand Marcos Jr. flew in to Cebu on Saturday, May 27, 2023, to lead the ribbon cutting ceremony that formally opened Pier 88, which is located in Barangay Poblacion in the northern town of Liloan.

During the activity, Marcos was accompanied by Vice President Sara Duterte, House Speaker Martin Romualdez, Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista, Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco, Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, Fifth District Rep. Duke Frasco and Liloan Mayor Aljew Fernando Frasco.

In his speech, the President said he looks forward to the full blast operation of Cebu’s newest and first “smart port” in the upcoming months, stressing the importance of transportation and connectivity to usher in more investments in Camotes Islands, which many people have dubbed as “the next Bantayan.”

“I exhort the local government of Liloan, the whole of Cebu to continue generating these kinds of high-impact projects and give us once again examples of best practices. May your examples be a source of inspiration and ideas for others to emulate, to follow, and to succeed with,” Marcos said. “We have now this Pier 88. We now have a ferry service. We talked about Camotes Islands and we think, of course, that is going to be good for Liloan, it’s going to be good for Camotes, but it doesn’t end there.”

As Cebu’s first and only “smart port,” Pier 88 will integrate digital technology into its operations with automated fare and ticketing systems to enhance efficiency and promote sustainability.

Economic development

Congressman Frasco stressed the convenience the new port will bring not only to residents of Liloan but also to residents of neighboring towns.

He said the trips that will be offered at Pier 88 will shorten the travel time to Lapu-Lapu City, which is home to the Mactan Economic Zone, and the downtown area of Cebu City.

“Most importantly, it improves the quality of life, saving hours of thousands of Cebuanos by significantly cutting travel time of the riding public who commute daily to and from their respective workplaces in Metro Cebu,” he said.

With these services, passengers from the north of Cebu Province can avoid the traffic along the Consolacion and Mandaue City corridor and arrive at their destinations quicker. In the future, daily traffic in this portion of Metro Cebu is expected to be decongested as some commuters will take to the water.

The congressman said Pier 88 will also provide economic opportunities for residents in northern Cebu, as they expect commerce, trading and investments to increase as the project is a mixed-used development that also features a mall, leisure spaces and restaurants.

The port will soon offer a water bus service to Mactan Island and Cebu City via the Topline Seabus, which can accommodate up to 150 passengers.

According to Eugene Erik Lim, Topline Group of Companies president and chief executive officer, they are finalizing preparations for the launch of the alternative mode of transportation in June.

Lim said Topline Seabus will incorporate the use of state-of-the-art technologies in their ticketing system via the use of QR code and smartphone.

“The unique thing about Seabus is we are now incorporating the new tech, meaning we can now cater to QR Codes,” Lim said during the grand launch on Saturday.

He said passengers will be able to buy tickets online instead of having to rely on a manual ticketing system, wherein the QR code will be scanned at the terminal before the water bus’ departure.

At Pier 88, Suroy-Suroy Sugbo cards and the Topline Travel App will also be used in the automated fare and ticketing system

During the dry run, it took the Seabus 30 to 40 minutes to travel from Liloan to Mactan, which would normally take an hour and a half or two hours by land, Lim said.

Lim said Topline has two Seabus vessels that were manufactured at a shipyard in the northern town of Carmen.

He said they plan to have a fleet of eight Seabus vessels.

Meanwhile, Congressman Frasco said the completion of a coastal road called the Liloan Blvd. that will connect the town to Consolacion and Mandaue City will also add to the economic benefits, adding that it was envisioned to reduce traffic along the main highway that traverses the two towns and city.

Governor Garcia, for her part, said the new port will also serve as an alternative mode of transportation for the people of Camotes Islands who want to travel to mainland Cebu.

In the past, the only way to get to and from Camotes Islands was through the Danao Port in Danao City.

“This will finally end the suffering of the people of Camotes Islands where for many years, the trips were monopolized by one shipping line, traveling from another port to a private port. Look right now, responding with a roar immediately represented by these three vessels – OceanJet, Aznar Shipping and Super Shuttle Roro – this will now give the people of Camotes and Cebu a choice,” she said.

And with different shipping firms operating at Pier 88, she said overall satisfaction will be ensured for travelers going to Camotes and vice versa.

She said the new sea route will accelerate the economic activity of the four municipalities of Camotes Islands, namely Pilar, Poro, San Francisco and Tudela.

Pier 88 is a public-private partnership project worth around P2 billion between Liloan and private firms Pier 88 Ventures Inc., Topline Group of Companies, Viking Land and FL Port Management Corp.

The three-hectare facility is divided into the cargo area and the commercial area, which has a mall where passengers can relax and shop before going to their destinations.

The port will soon be offering ferry and boat transport services to Leyte and Bohol.

“A lot (Shipping firms) have shown intent for the different routes, we will know more in June so stay tuned for that,” Lim said.

The multi-phased project, once completed, can serve up to 10,000 passengers daily.