The Philippines is composed of 7,107 islands stretching as far as the tip of Borneo and Sabah, and in the northern part of the Philippines, one can travel to Japan by boat in less than 10 hours because Batanes Island is just a couple of hundred miles away from the territorial sea border of Japan.
Practically, boats, mostly old, dilapidated, are the mode of getting from one Philippine island to another. Because islands are situated relatively close to each other, taking a medium-sized boat is the best option for tourist travelers and Filipino commuters. A trip from Manila, the capital city of the country, to one of the islands in the Visayas region will take 24 to 26 hours. That is quiet a hassle for those who are traveling with small kids.
In recent years there have been many sea tragedies that hit the Philippine sea waters. The deadliest one was the sinking of a Sulpicio passenger boat off the cost of Romblon and Masbate which claimed nearly 2,000 lives. The Philippines is facing the vast Pacific Ocean. Understandably the country is a recipient of south monsoon winds from the Pacific. Typhoons always pass by the central part of the Philippines before they proceed to Taiwan or Vietnam or Japan.
Before the arrival of low budget airlines, people had no choice but to take the long torturous boat journey. It was like a monopoly for the traditional big boat operators, mostly Filipino-Chinese businessmen. They lord over the seas and they raise the ticket price without public announcement and as often as they want. Still, Filipino travelers would take the boat since a plane ticket will cost two or three months of an ordinary employee’s salary.
But in the last five years, traveling in the Philippines has significantly been revolutionized. There are now low budget airlines such as Cebu Pacific Air, Air Philippines, Zest Air, or Sea Air that will connect you from one island to another in less than an hour. The flag carrier, the Philippine Airlines, the first airline in Asia, has been forced to slash down its rate as it can no longer compete with low budget airlines. This is good for all Pinoy and foreign travelers. They now have an option. Taking a boat will cost the same as traveling by plane. Why take the boat when you can have the comfort of a plane ride?
What follows is a bit odd. Boat operators are now trying to compete with low budget airlines. They too slash down their fare rate and they have been aggressively advertising their travel offers.
It seems that the era of the shipping industry in the Philippines would be best left for cargo and logistics purposes only.
As for most travelers today, getting around the country’s thousands of islands has been made easier without hurting their pocket. Thanks to low budget airlines. People now have a choice.