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Roll-on, Roll-off A traveler’s guide to inter-island driving
Source: Manila Bulletin
Author: Aris Ilagan
Date: 2000-07-10
Frequent travelers call it R.O.R.O. for short. It basically means ''Roll on, Roll

off'' - a process that covers the driving of a motorized ve hicle in and out of an

inter-island ferry or cargo ship.

It may be a simple sounding term but for first-timers, it can involve complicated

procedures before loading. It is also often the most unwelcome undertaking since it is

perceived to be synonymous with tedious bureaucratic red tape and corruption among

government agencies in the port areas.

To avoid headaches related to ship transfers of vehicles, individuals or groups out on

a cross-country adventure have to do their homework to avoid delays in R.O.R.O.


The recent Manila Bulletin Cruising Cross Country event gave me an insight into the

procedures of R.O.R.O. management to ensure that travel schedules are followed.

With this memorable travel experience, the misconceptions on R.O.R.O. facilitations

have also been straightened out – at least from my point of view.

Traveling by car from Manila to Caticlan covering close to 2,000 kilometers of scenic

and historic avenues across seven islands (Luzon, Samar, Leyte, Cebu, Negros,

Panay, and Boracay) could be the ultimate experience. By land, motorists will have

the best view of local color shown through the scenes in remote and seldom-visited

municipalities, and a touching review of historical places frequently seen only in


Plan well so that you will not spoil the fun of this long drive, paying close attention to

the documents needed for the easy loading of the vehicle on R.O.R.O. vessels.

A vital requirement for loading is the clearance from the Philippine National Police

(PNP)- Traffic Management Group (TMG). This document is a computer printout which

declares that your vehicle is not included in the PNP “hot cars” list. In simple terms, it

is not a carnapped vehicle.

Applying for a motor vehicle clearance from the PNP can be the most time consuming

process if it is done at the port of disembarkation. In our case, it could have been in

the PNP-TMG office in Matnog, Sorsogon. The stencil and macroetching process, the

computer verification, are just a few of the steps for the application of a clearance.

If luck is not on your side, your vehicle can be in a long queue that could take two

hours before it is loaded on a R.O.R.O. vessel.

The priorities for the kind of vehicles to be loaded are: passenger buses, first; cargo

trucks with perishable goods, second; and private vehicles, last. About five private

vehicles can be accommodated on the earliest trips from Matnog to Allen, Samar.

Since Matnog has always been the preferred jump off point of carnapped vehicles

from urban centers in the Luzon region to the Visayas and Mindanao, the PNP-TMG

has doubled the verification of vehicle documents. This now includes original receipt

and certificate of registration and a rigid stencil and macroetching process.

In our case, I applied for the PNP motor vehicle clearance for the Toyota Revo Super

Sport at the TMG clearance section at the old capitol building in Pasig City to avoid

processing delays in Matnog. By doing so, I figured that it is better to sort out

possible problems on the vehicle’s documents here in Manila for immediate remedy

than in Matnog which is about 600 kilometers from Metro Manila.

The computerized vehicle clearance from Pasig City PNP motor vehicle clearance

section is valid in Matnog and other ports where the R.O.R.O. ferries operate.

Always carry photocopies of the clearance to surrender to any port official who asks

for a copy during loading time.

Another important tip: Place all pertinent documents related to the vehicle in one big

envelope (preferably plastic) with several photocopies. Otherwise, one missing

document may lead you to panic.

Vehicle owners must also declare the baggages inside the car before loading into the


After the TMG has stamped a clearance authority on the computer print out, the next

move is to settle the wharfage fee of the Philippine Ports Authority at the next

window, the bill of lading and then the arrastre services. The local PNP Maritime Office

will also provide you a stub, stating that your vehicle had been inspected and verified.

The bill of lading for the Revo cost R450 for the Matnog-Allen cruise. Other charges

were arrastre, R34; and wharfage fee, R74.

As always, expect local facilitators (fixers) to meet you at the port gates to offer

their services for an “express” R.O.R.O. document processing.

Naturally, express services of a fixer will cost you. The best way is the D.I.Y.

(do-it-yourself) method. With this, you will understand what you are paying for and


Be aware of the “first in, last out” loading arrangement. This means that if your car is

the first on the line for loading, it will be parked in the innermost area of the ferry. For

the last in, first out arrangement, observe how the foreman reacts to certain

“diplomacy” or tips. Once the vehicle is settled, leave it immediately (don’t forget to

lock the doors) to avoid suffocation from the fumes of the other vehicles. The

passenger buses around your vehicle often have their diesel engines running during

the two-hour Matnog-Allen trip (probably to keep the driver cool and comfortable).

Take all your personal belongings and valuables with you and go up to the deck to

enjoy the sea breeze.

The roll-off is usually not a problem in Matnog. But in the busy Cebu port, car owners

should immediately settle the wharfage and arrastre fees while waiting for the

unloading go-signal so as not to waste time.

And if you are suspicious – drive the car by yourself in and out of the ferry.

(Articles reprinted from Cruising Magazine, 1st Anniversary issue, June 2000) To be

continued next week…

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