SUMMER is here. In a few weeks, Holy Week will usher the exodus of many Filipinos and foreigners to hometowns or tourist spots beyond urban centers.
The onset of this peak travel season underscores the public’s need for a safe, efficient, and affordable system connecting the archipelago.
A viable option that’s more affordable than air travel is the RoRo System.
Launched in 2003, the Philippine Nautical Highway System is also known as the Road Roll-on/Roll-off Terminal System (RoRo System or RRTS).
It is a 919-kilometer network that links the archipelago by highways and ports that make it possible for the public to crisscross Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao by land and by sea.
For travelers not using private vehicles, the RoRo System offers options in public utility vehicles (PUV) that include buses and vans.
Cebu’s roads and ports are part of the Western and Central Nautical Highway, increasing the opportunities of the province to be not just a gateway for tourism but also for enterprise and the movement of goods within the country and neighboring countries.
Last April 2017, the RoRo System already connects the Philippines from Davao City and General Santos to Indonesia via Bitung.
To be sustainable, the RRTS requires not just residents and tourists but the government and the private sector.
Long-distance travel should prioritize the safety and security of travellers and residents in the areas along the Nautical Highway routes. Since public buses and vans travel from early morning to late night, operators must ensure the optimum condition of vehicles and the professional performance of drivers.
In September 2017, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Land Transportation Regulatory and Franchising Board (LTFRB) launched a Driver’s Academy in Quezon City and Region 3. Will this be replicated in key areas of the country?
Public transport drivers are required to attend the Driver’s Academy. Knowledge of basic road safety rules and regulations is not just mandatory for drivers, entrusted with the lives of commuters.
Public transport drivers, specially of the massive long-distance buses, must be conscious of their part in preventing road congestion and accidents.
Local governments should also impose road safety rules and regulations on pedestrians and motorists, specially in the cities and towns that are part of the RoRo network.
The Port of Roxas is a popular destination for tourists preferring an affordable route to Caticlan before pushing off for the white sands of Boracay Island.
Bicyclists and motorists driving without lights along the highway connecting Calapan City and the Port of Roxas must be aware of the extreme risk to their life and that of travelers speeding to catch the ferries leaving Roxas. Local executives must strictly impose the use of lights and helmets to prevent mishaps.
National and local government regulation is needed not just to ensure the road- and seaworthiness of the RoRo route, but to weed out corruption at all levels.
At the Port of Roxas, arguably one of the most chaotic, the queueing of outbound vehicles and even the collection of ro-ro terminal fees were marred by irregularities.
For instance, on the evening of February 16, the port guard receiving payment for terminal fees from vehicles had a practice of releasing one less ticket for the total fees paid, telling drivers that he “ran out” of tickets but would give these “later”.
Since entering vehicles immediately joined the queue waiting to board the ferries, these missing tickets were never given to the drivers and the corresponding amounts collected, not duly accounted for.
Travelers’ assistance centers, online purchase of bus and ferry tickets, decent and affordable transients’ lodging, and dining/sightseeing destinations will convince more Filipinos and visitors to experience the archipelago via the RoRo, provided the basics of an efficient, secure, and professional system are in place.