ILOILO City – Gov. Samuel Gumarin of Guimaras appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to lift the suspension order on motorboats plying the Iloilo-Guimaras route.
The island-province’s economy and people were suffering for more than a week already, he said.
The Maritime Industry Authority grounded all Iloilo-Guimaras motorboats right after the Aug. 3 capsizing of three boats that killed 31 people.
“President Duterte, please look at our situation,” said Gumarin yesterday.
The President was supposed to visit Guimaras on Aug. 7 to commiserate with the families of those who drowned in the Aug. 3 incident but cancelled it due to inclement weather. He instead met with the families of the other drowning victims in Iloilo City.
Of particular concern to Gumarin were the boatmen displaced by the suspension of their motorboats’ operation.
“They have no earnings. Their families are going hungry. Indi na sila kahatag balon sa ila mga kabataan nga naga ileskwela,” said the governor.
Gumarin welcomed the Maritime Industry Authority’s decision to allow fast crafts and additional roll on, roll off vessels to transport people from Guimaras to Iloilo and vice versa but he said the costly fares were hurting passengers.
Passengers only pay between P15 t P25 for motorboats, he said, but they have to shell out P70 for the fast crafts and ro-ro vessels.
“Indi masarangan sang mga pumoluyo,” lamented Gumarin.
Businesses in Guimaras were adversely affected, too, he added, citing “slight increases” in the prices of vegetables and fish.
To ensure that consumers were protected, the governor said, the price monitoring councils of five municipalities – Jordan, Buenavista, Nueva Valencia, San Lorenzo, and Sibunag – were activated.
He, however, clarified he had not ordered a price freeze.
“Our economy is agri-tourism propelled. The grounding of the motorboats is adversely affecting it. It has displaced Guimarasnons working in the motorboat sector. Please help us,” said Gumarin.
It felt like Guimaras had become isolated, he lamented.
Past noon on Aug. 3, M/B Chi Chi and M/B Keshia, both bound for Guimaras from Iloilo City, were hit by a squall or a sudden gust of violent winds and rain. They capsized.
At around 4 p.m. Iloilo City-bound M/B Jenny Vince from Guimaras was hit by another squall and also capsized.
The three boats had a total of 83 passengers and 13 crewmen.
Gumarin appealed for livelihood assistance; some 10 percent of the around 40,000 households in the island is suffering, he said.
He considered the Aug. 3 tragedy as worse than the oil spill that hit Guimaras’ waters in 2006 in terms of its effects on the island’s economy./PN