Mardika Parama, Jakarta – President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo on Tuesday inaugurated the Manado-Danowudu section of the Manado-Bitung toll road, the first highway in North Sulawesi.
The new toll road section connecting the provincial capital and Danowudu in Ranowulu district spans 26 kilometers, 65 percent of the 40-kilometer Manado-Bitung toll road.
"Once the Manado-Bitung toll road is complete, it will cut travel time between the two [end] points from 1.5 hours to just half an hour," Jokowi said during the inauguration ceremony on Sept. 29, which he attended by videoconference from Bogor Palace in West Java.
"The [Manado] tollgate is also situated just 12 minutes from Sam Ratulangi International Airport," he added.
PT Jasamarga Manado Bitung (JMB), a subsidiary of state-owned toll road operator PT Jasa Marga, broke ground on the toll road in 2017. The project is a public-private partnership with the Public Works and Housing Ministry.
According to a statement from Jasa Marga, the Manado-Bitung toll road is a Rp 4.95 trillion (US$332.5 million) investment with a 40-year concession period.
The President expressed hope that the new toll road would cut logistics and distribution costs from the port of Manado to the Bitung Special Economic Zone (SEZ) as well as improve the region's competitiveness to attract more investments.
"The governor's task after the [toll road's] inauguration is to attract as many investors as possible to invest in the Bitung SEZ. As the economic zone is now connected [to Manado], we hope investments will come, businesses will grow and the people's income will increase," said Jokowi.
According to its website, the 534-hectare Bitung SEZ plans to attract Rp 32.8 trillion in investments to boost competitiveness of the local fisheries and agriculture sectors. The Bitung SEZ also expects to absorb more than 34,700 workers by 2025.
Jokowi also said he expected the new toll road to increase tourist arrivals to regional destinations including Likupang, one of the government's five "super priority tourist destinations".
Public Works Minister Basuki Hadimuljono said during the ceremony that the government was developing supporting infrastructure in addition to the Manado-Likupang toll road to boost local tourism.
The supporting projects include the Malalayang beach beautification project in Manado, the development of 463 homestays at selected tourist destinations and an expansion project for a drinking water treatment plant.
"We are currently building a variety of infrastructure because Manado and Likupang are among the national strategic tourist destinations," said Basuki.
Over the last two months, the President has inaugurated two sections of the trans-Sumatra toll road: the Pekanbaru-Dumai section in Riau on Sept. 22 and the Indrapuri-Blang Bintang section in Aceh on Aug. 25. Jokowi has said he is aiming for a 2024 completion date for the trans-Sumatra toll road, which is expected to create 296,000 jobs.
Jokowi said that the megaproject, which includes the 61-km toll road section connecting Medan, Kualanamu and Tebing Tinggi that opened last year, had employed 24,700 workers as of Tuesday.