A ferry company has pledged compliance with international standards for accommodating cargos and passengers in Bacolod and Iloilo, and is advocating for modernized marine transport services.
The Archipelago Philippine Ferries Corp., the owner of FastCat, is the first inter-island marine vessel with hybrid characteristics of a fast craft and Roll-On Roll-Off (Roro) and has plied Bacolod-Iloilo route for three years now.
APFC vice president for Marketing, Christine Guevarra, in an interview with the media Thursday night, said they are the “game changer” in the marine transport industry as they lead the way in using new and modernized sea vessels.
“The economy in Bacolod and Iloilo is improving. There are a lot of services both cities have to offer, that is why cargo services in both islands are improving,” she said.
In their other routes in the country, passenger buses are their number one customers, but in Bacolod and Iloilo, prestige cars and trucks are the main customers who carry fish, trading, agricultural, and other products needed by both Panay and Negros.
FastCat, a Ropax Catamaran vessel that has four engines, has a capacity of 704 tons or eight trucks, 30 cars, and 275 passengers, with three round trips from the Banago Port in Bacolod to the Iloilo River Wharf in Barangay Progreso, Iloilo City.
“Our main business is not passengers, but the rolling cargos,” Guevarra said, adding, “But we, including the management, want to improve the lives of the Filipinos and in doing that, we want to give them superior quality of services and modern marine vessels.”
She also said that the 10 FastCat vessels around the country are new and are quite known for being clean like airline types of accommodation.
FastCat's price range is from P190 to P300, depending on the class seat. This price is competitive with other fastcraft companies at the Bredco Port in Bacolod City, Guevarra said.
Plans for increasing the passenger fare rates will come in the next months, or until supervening factors come in, like the increase in the prices of commodities, she added.
‘FASTER AND MORE VESSELS'
Cutting the travel time and giving a nationwide service through inter-connecting land and sea trips are one of the main thrusts of APFC, and Guevarra said more FastCat vessels are expected to journey to new routes, including trips to Malaysia.
In the next quarter of the year, they will open routes to Opol, Misamis Oriental, to Camuigin Island; Bulalacao, and Oriental Mindoro to Coron, Palawan; and an international trip from Buliluyan in Palawan to Kudat in Malaysia.
The “Do It Yourself” trips of families and group of friends have encouraged Filipinos to roam around the country in private cars, and that this is the reason that they are opening more inter-island routes, and promote tourism sites found in them, she said.
She cited islands like Camiguin and Higantes as places that have not been visited by many before because airlines are not servicing them and the only way to reach them is through land trips supported by RoRo, she said.
Travel time in other routes was also cut in half when FastCat started servicing, she said. The Dumaguete to Dapitan trip through the sea used to be five hours but their vessel has cut it to only three, she added.
Guevarra reported that the average RoRo vessels in the country are 40 years old, and Filipinos do not complain as they have been used to their kind of service, that include delays and slower travel time.
However, she admitted that this advocacy to modernize is challenging as other competitors are not open to it and there is weak support from the government in terms of policy-making.
In the bus industry, a vehicle over 15 years old will not be allowed to travel, but in sea vessels, there's no limit, she said.
“We will try to perfect our services by following international standards and with social media, we now have closer interaction with passengers,” Guevarra added. *MLG
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