Thursday, April 13, 2017
ILOILO City – Passengers’ baggage are being scrutinized in seaports. Inspectors of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Iloilo are on the lookout for illegal drugs and deadly weapons.
There should be no overloading of boats, too.
These tight security measures are in line with coastguard’s Oplan Ligtas Biyahe this Holy Week. There has been a surge in the number of people in various seaports since yesterday.
According to PCG Iloilo’s Lieutenant Commander Ramil Palabrica, they have deployed five trained dogs to major seaports on top of some 150 coastguard personnel. The deployment started on April 5.
Three of the dogs are trained to detect illegal drugs. The two others can spot explosives.
Passenger assistance desks have been set up, too, to assist those with queries and complaints.
Last year, the help desks mostly received requests for assistance from parents who lost their children, said Palabrica.
PCG-Iloilo also formed medical teams.
Of particular concern to the coastguard are the new Iloilo Ferry Terminal, the old wharf at the Parola area and the wharf in Barangay Ortiz, all in the City Proper. These cater to motorboats bound for Guimaras Island.
Palabrica said they expected an influx of people crossing the Iloilo Strait to Guimaras Island for the annual Pagtaltal sa Balaan Bukid, a reenactment of the passion and death of Jesus Christ.
It is good, he said, that the new Iloilo Ferry Terminal has an x-ray machine checking passengers’ baggage.
Boat trips from Iloilo City to Guimaras and vice versa are from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. only, said Palabrica.
He also warned boat operators against taking in passengers and cargoes more than their boats’ capacity to carry.
PCG-Iloilo’s floating assets composed of two aluminum boats are on standby, too, in the waters between Iloilo and Guimaras.
Security at the Iloilo Fastcraft and Roro Terminal in Lapuz district for ships bound for Bacolod City has been tightened, also.
Palabrica said two more aluminum boats are on standby at Villa Beach in Arevalo district.
Early this week, Palabrica urged the public to buy their boat tickets early to avoid heavy lines in ticketing booths that sometimes lead to commotion.
The Oplan Ligtas Biyahe of PCG-Iloilo will be in effect until April 20 and also covers the Culasi pier in Ajuy, Iloilo and the pier in Estancia, Iloilo.
The local coastguard is coordinating with the Iloilo City Emergency Response team, Philippine Red Cross, Philippine National Police, Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary, Maritime Industry Authority, Department of Transportation, and the Philippine Ports Authority.
PCG’s central office, meanwhile, urged travelers to observe the following safety reminders:
* Arrive at the seaport at least three hours before departure.
* Refrain from bringing prohibited cargoes, including flammable liquids and solids, toxic and infectious substances, corrosive materials, radioactive materials and explosives, and compressed gases.
* Present complete documents if carrying firearms.
PGC officer-in-charge Commodore Joel Garcia said: “Ship inspectors and Coast Guard K-9 teams were also instructed to exercise extra vigilance in ports and to conduct random checks on passengers and their luggage to ensure that no dangerous cargoes or explosive materials will be carried onboard passenger and cargo vessels.”
He also reminded boat passengers to wear life jackets, particularly those taking boats with open decks. (With a report from the Philippine News Agency/PN)