DAVAO CITY — Trade between the Philippines and Indonesia has been steadily growing, but most of the cargo traffic still moves between Luzon and Java, which is costlier than more direct routes originating from Mindanao, according to Indonesian Consul General Berlian Napitupulu.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, the value of trade between the two countries was nearly $4 billion in 2015, more than $5 billion in 2016, and over P7 billion in 2017.
Indonesia has moved up from the Philippine’s 11th top trading partner in 2015 to 9th last year.
The Davao-based Mr. Napitupulu, however, said, “This is not driven by our neighboring islands, which is Mindanao from the Philippine side and Sulawesi or Kalimantan from the Indonesian side.”
He added that some Indonesian products that reach the Philippines even pass through other countries, driving the cost higher.
If they are directly brought to the Philippines, he added, prices will be significantly lower.
But making a push for the shortest route between the neighbors has been a challenge, with the Davao-General Santos and Bitung roll-on, roll-off (RoRo) link, launched in April last year, currently on hold due to lack of demand.
“The RoRo cuts dramatically the travel time and distance between Davao City and Bitung from two to three weeks to only two days. We should make use of this strategic sea route,” he said during the recent Indonesian Food and Beverage Expo 2018 held in Davao City.
The Indonesian consul said the main goal now is to urge the business sectors of both sides to identify consolidators for their products that could be loaded to the RoRo service.
“We must have a sustainable cooperation,” said Mr. Napitupulu, adding that he is optimistic that this year’s expo will bring about more business partnerships and transactions.
“Personally, I can say that it was one of our successful business matching… they are happy, particularly the coffee industry which met with partners. These companies are very big such as Indocaffe, the third largest coffee maker in Indonesia,” he said.
At least 170 businessmen from Davao City and Indonesia participated in the business matching exercise, which was conducted with support from the regional office of the Department of Trade and Industry, Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), and Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (DCCCII).
Secretary Datu Abul Khayr D. Alonto, the MinDA chair, said in his speech during the expo’s opening that the event is a testament to the growing and potentially stronger ties between the two nations.
“And what better way to demonstrate this deep bond but through sharing food and beverages? We all know that the most profound and engaging conversations always take off with something to eat and drink,” Mr. Alonto said.
He added that the expo also served as a venue for smallholder farmers and entrepreneurs from both countries to learn best practices from each other and explore partnerships.
DCCCII President Arturo M. Milan said the event was “a great way of strengthening bilateral ties… through expanding trade and commerce.” — Maya M. Padillo with a report from Carmelito Q. Francisco