The Leyte Ports to Cebu

Talking of Leyte, I am referring to the old Leyte province which included Biliran, Southern Leyte and Panaon island. The reason is port and route competition does not actually respect current political boundaries. Biliran and Panaon islands are connected by bridges to Leyte hence there is no practical physical division separating them from the main island of Leyte.

In the recent past and including ports used by RORO Cargo LCTs, there were many Leyte ports with scheduled connections to Cebu. Starting from Cabalian (San Juan), that includes, counter-clockwise, the ports of Liloan, Sogod, Maasin, Bato, Hilongos, Hindang, Baybay, IDHI Port (Albuera), Ormoc, GGC (Ormoc), Pingag (Isabel), Isabel, Palompon, Villaba, San Isidro, Naval and Tacloban. This list does not include ports that lost connection to Cebu much earlier like San Francisco, Malitbog and Calubian. There are so many Leyte ports with Cebu connection because Leyte is economically tethered to Cebu. And Cebu is the true regional center of the middle of the Visayas.

However, in recent years, some of these ports waned with the development of the roads and land transport including the ubiquitous commuter van. Cabalian, Liloan and Sogod, all in Southern Leyte, lost its regular connections to Cebu. Even the supposed main port of entry to the province, the Maasin port was much weakened. The reason for this was the rise of commuter vans and buses connecting to the arriving and departing ships. Bato and Hilongos became the main ports of entry for Southern Leyte even though they are located in another province. From these two ports, connecting vans and buses rolled to Maasin and to towns beyond. The vans and buses also passed through the shortcut mountain road to go as far as Sogod, Cabalian, Silago and Panaon island. These land transports have dedicated connections with the ferries and tickets can be bought even in Cebu or aboard the ferry.

These connecting rides are actually faster compared to the old ferries going to Sogod, Liloan and Cabalian. With dawn arrivals of the ships in the entry ports, most of the passengers will be at their homes by breakfast. Even in the farthest destinations it will be well before lunch when the passengers will arrive. Compare this to the near or lunch arrivals of the ships to Sogod, Liloan and Cabalian before. And besides these new ferry plus van modes are cheaper than the old ships to Southern Leyte. In the process, Bato and Hilongos ports became more important.

Going to Cebu, these same vans and buses also brought the passengers to the ships. Besides, it is also easy for people of Southern Leyte to take the local bus and local van to Maasin. If there is a ship there then they can take that. If there is none, it is so easy for to take another ride to Bato port. Others can also take the national highway to Mahaplag junction. From there it is just a short distance away to Baybay port where there are also daily and multiple departures like in Hilongos and Bato.

This syndrome is a fine example that shows it is not only shipping companies within a route that compete. Actually, several parallel routes and the shipping companies plying those are all competing and superior routes can sometimes sink inferior routes like the Cebu routes to Sogod, Liloan and Cabalian. Well, such parallel competition can even sink ship companies as shown in recent Leyte history when the shipping companies serving Cabalian, Liloan and Sogod went under. This syndrome is clearly not known or understood by the research paper on shipping competition done by Myrna S. Austria.

Another far port of Leyte that lost its connection to Cebu is Tacloban port. Passengers learned to use Palompon, Ormoc and Baybay ports as ports of entry and then just transfer to a van or a bus. The land transport terminals of the three localities just lie outside the port gates so transferring is no problem. With this mode, passengers will arrive in Tacloban earlier and at less cost. Going to Cebu from Tacloban, the riding process is just reversed and it is that easy too. Besides, in Ormoc and Baybay there are many ships departing and in Ormoc there is even a day departure. Also, there are High Speed Crafts in Ormoc for those who are in a hurry or who just wants more comfort. So, slowly the Tacloban ships lost patronage until they finally stopped sailing. Again, such syndrome was not known or understood by the research paper on shipping competition by Myrna S. Austria which compartmentalized routes and assumed that other routes have no effect or influence on one particular route.

If that were so, then the likes of Maypalad Shipping Corporation that held Liloan, Sogod and Tacloban routes might have survived. This was the fate too of other shipping companies that held routes to Villaba, Tabango and San Isidro like M.Y. Shipping and Rose Shipping. Daily there are many ships to Ormoc while the service to those three towns were not daily. There is even a day ship and High Speed Crafts from three companies. In Ormoc the land transport terminal is just outside the port gates and there are a lot of buses and vans to Villaba, Tabango and San Isidro on the northwest corner of Leyte. With the competition from the Ormoc ships, the shipping companies serving Villaba, Tabango and San Isidro quit and now there are no more ships to those ports from Cebu. They were simply torpedoed by a parallel route which is Cebu-Ormoc. Again, the paper on shipping by Myrna S. Austria did not see or understand that.

Naval in Biliran, as a port, was also weakened by parallel routes like the port of Maasin and to think both are ports of provincial capitals and supposedly the main ports of entry to their provinces. Naval is also impacted by the parallel route to Ormoc because from Ormoc there are plenty of vans and buses to Biliran. And Ormoc has daily departures from Cebu while Ormoc does not have such. For those who failed to catch the night ship there are also the High Speed Crafts and day ferries to Ormoc. Naval simply does not have such option. Besides, if there is a ship to Palompon the traveler to Biliran can also take that and again the bus terminal is just outside Palompon port. Clearly, Myrna S. Austria never dreamed provincial ports can be weakened by far and near parallel routes. That was her mistake in treating routes and ports as insulated from one another. This might be unknown to her but people of Leyte know that even from a young age since they come and go to Cebu.

In Myrna S. Austria’s research paper, the routes I enumerated above that lost ships are generally classified as having “no competition”. Ports lost ships, routes were dropped and shipping companies sank because there was “no competition”?? With regards to Leyte, her paper is obviously erroneous (it is erroneous in other parts of the Philippines too and I will show that in future articles).

Even with less players the routes from Cebu to Leyte are all vibrant and shipping companies compete well. Now, it is even more dynamic with the arrival of the RORO Cargo LCTs which compete now with the traditional Cebu-Leyte shipping companies. With them there are new routes and new ports in use. The traditional shipping companies have already reacted to them and one way is by also joining the fray or their mode. They are friendlier now to rolling cargo as the intermodal way is obvious already that that is the way of the future.

There is “lack of competition”? Nah, that is only a figment of imagination in Myrna S. Austria’s paper.


One thought on “The Leyte Ports to Cebu

  1. I once rode Asia Philippines before from Tacloban – Cebu. ETD is 4pm and ETA is 4am. there was a time when i was on board the ship stop before going to the open sea. My mom said probably inspection from authorities.Im not sure.The view of going under San Juanico Bridge was really amazing.


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