A BUS service between Davao and Marawi — passing through two other urban centers, the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan — and two other routes intended to boost economic and cultural activities within the southern mainland Mindanao were launched Thursday.

Mindanao Star Bus Transport, Inc., a part of the Yanson Group of Bus Companies, will serve the Davao-Marawi line using at least 15 transport units, according to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), which includes Marawi and Cotabato. 

Another route is between the cities of General Santos and Dipolog City via Cotabato, which will be covered by Rural Transit Mindanao, Inc.  

Other shorter routes such as between Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur and Marawi, and Iligan-Marawi will be served by jeepneys.

“It’s time for Mindanao to have all these,” Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) Chair Maria Belen S. Acosta said at the launching ceremony held in Marawi City. 

BARMM Chief Minister Ahod B. Ebrahim, in a message delivered by a representative, said these “friendship routes” are “a concrete manifestation of the seriousness of our commitment to helping in Marawi’s rehabilitation.” 

“The friendship routes will bring back normalcy and stimulate commerce, something in which our brothers and sisters in Marawi excel,” he said. 

BARMM Minister of Transportation and Communication Dickson P. Hermoso, for his part, said the opening of these new services will be followed by other initiatives to improve people and cargo movement. 

“BARMM is doing a lot now through its ministries with the legislators so that we can boost and cultivate (socio-economic development) and this includes the launching of inter-regional routes,” Mr. Hermoso said. 

Meanwhile, MinDA Deputy Executive Director Romeo M. Montenegro said they are hoping that flights between Davao City and Manado in Sulawesi, Indonesia will resume soon as COVID-related restrictions continue to ease. 

Mindanao and Sulawesi are part of the special economic grouping composed of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Philippine under the ASEAN bloc.

International links to and from Davao resumed late last year, with Singapore flights by Scoot Tigerair Pte Ltd. the first to restart commercial operations.

Davao-Manado flights were relaunched in Sept. 2019 with Indonesian flag carrier Garuda Indonesia serving the route until international borders were closed in March 2020. 

“It was a pity that the pandemic struck, the Davao City-Manado flight was picking up already after its launch… (but) once we reopen out connectivity to major international destinations, I hope Davao-Manado to be reopened as well,” Mr. Montenegro said. — Maya M. Padillo