The presence of a new roll-on, roll-off (RoRo) player plying between Lipata Port in Culasi, Antique and Bulalacao, Oriental Mindoro is expected to boost the economy and tourism of Antique.
FastCat, made its ceremonial voyage from Culasi to Bulalacao on Monday, May 6.
Senator Loren Legarda, who was among the invited guests during the ceremonial voyage held in Lipata Port, said that passengers and agricultural crops from Antique could now be shipped to Bulalacao and through Calapan City towards Batangas City by another FastCat vessel.
“This will have a great impact into our economy and tourism development,” said Legarda in her message during the program.
From Lipata port, the route will pass through Caticlan, in Malay, Aklan to mainland Caluya going to Bulalacao. From Bulalacao, a land travel to Calapan City would take around three hours. Another Ro-Ro vessel will then connect Calapan to Batangas port.
Meantime, FastCat is still waiting for the completion of the dredging of the coastal area near the pier in Caluya that is being undertaken by the local government to commence its regular operations in the area.
Christopher Pastrana, FastCat president and chief executive officer, said that the opening of the new route to be serviced by their Number 11 vessel is anchored on the shipping company’s goal to connect the islands in the Philippines.
“We have a brand-new vessel that will travel from Lipata Port in Antique to Bulalacao, Oriental Mindoro,” he said.
The vessel has a capacity of 300 passengers and could accommodate 35 cars.
He said that the double hull vessel, designed by an Australian company and built in China, has a cost of about USD 8.3 million.
“The vessel is International Maritime Organization (IMO) compliant,” he said.
They target to fully operate by the third or fourth quarter of this year. They are also in the process of studying the rate for the passenger fare.
FastCat intends to ply the Culasi-Bulalacao route three times a week.
He added that they decided to prioritize Antique upon the request of Legarda.
Meanwhile, Philippine Ports Authority Area Acting Manager Eduardo Goles, who was also on board during the ceremonial voyage, said they had been marketing the Lipata Port since 2017 after their development project in the area with FastCast the only company expressing interest to operate.
“We had been promoting the Lipata Port since 2017 and so FastCat operation is really a welcome development,” he said.
PPA has put up lighting facilities, passenger terminal, RoRo ramp, and back up area at the Lipata port.PNA