LINKING the seaports of Mindanao and Palawan with Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei will boost the tourism exchange and the cruise ship industry, as well as trade and maritime relations between the Southeast Asian nations, Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo said. What had been an inconceivable idea until last year because a reality when President Rodrigo Duterte hosted Indonesian President Joko Widodo at the inauguration of the Roll-On-Roll-Off (RO-RO) ferry services, linking the seaports of Davao City and General Santos City to Bitung, Indonesia seaport. The new shipping route which is within the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia- Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area, is the government’s maiden accomplishment under its ASEAN chairmanship this year. While the tourism department works with airlines on opening more air routes between the Philippines’ secondary airports, Teo said creating a network of sea routes between the country’s sea gateways and those of its Asian neighbors is a must to boost tourism. In a joint declaration on establishing direct sea connectivity, Duterte and Widodo agreed to provide naval escorts to the RO-RO ships within their respective jurisdiction. Meanwhile, the DOT Region 11 office in cooperation with Davao travel and tour operators will offer discounted packages under the “Davao Summer Will Rock You” campaign until May 31.