Coming Challenges and Opportunities in the upcoming ASEAN RoRo System

Buried within the numerous talking points in President Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July 24 was one seemingly small bit that could prove critical for business: increasing Ro-Ro connectivity to ASEAN countries. 

RoRo, short for Roll-on/roll-off, ships have connected major Philippine islands since 2003, making it easier and cheaper to transport people and goods across the country. RoRo to other ASEAN nations will extend these benefits. The ASEAN RoRo promises to shorten travel time from three to five weeks down to just two to three days and save approximately $1,500 or P74 thousand per Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEU) containers. Already, ports in Davao and General Santos boast RoRo shipping routes to Bitung, Indonesia.

RoRo’s expansion is a huge opportunity for Philippine businesses. The ASEAN has already overtaken the United States and Japan as our largest trading partner. With the improved transportation, the ASEAN countries will grow even closer and empower smaller companies to ship their goods between borders.

Savvy businesses are already looking over the horizon. Improved access to the larger market would raise opportunities for profit and growth beyond the capacity of the Philippines. Businesses that remain focused on the local economy will be left behind and face greater competition from products from other ASEAN countries.  

However, Filipino companies entering the greater Southeast Asian markets will face one big problem: communication. Fortunately, this can be overcome:

1. Invest in Market Research

Due to cultural differences, various market segments might have very different roles across Southeast Asian nations. It’s not safe to assume what works in the Philippine will work in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, or Thailand. Market research will help business determine the exact characteristics and behaviors of these segments – information that will be invaluable in designing marketing campaigns that will directly target the interest of potential ASEAN consumers. 


2. Understand how other ASEAN countries tell their stories

ASEAN countries have very different PR practices. To sell products, it’s crucial to learn how other Southeast Asian nations communicate their messages to their consumers. Learning to ‘speak the language’ will increase the effectiveness of any marketing campaign. 


3. Find Agency Partners with International Capabilities

Every business needs specialists to handle integral aspects of their practices. Communication and PR is no different. Creating an effective campaign across Southeast Asia requires an understanding of local peculiarities and be accessible for Filipino businesses. Fortunately, there are agencies with international capabilities and linkages that you can partner, which can handle communications with ASEAN prospects.


ASEAN Ro-Ro connectivity will open opportunities for Filipino businesses but to fully take advantage of them, it’s crucial to start getting to know other Southeast Asian countries today. 

How are you preparing? Share your thoughts in the comments below.