ILOILO City – The Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) lifted the suspension order on the sailing of motorboats plying the Iloilo-Guimaras route yesterday, easing the anxiety of people crossing the Iloilo Strait daily to either work, study or do business in this city and the island province of Guimaras.
The motorboats were grounded after Aug. 3’s capsizing of three boats that killed 31 people.
The lifting of the suspension, however, came with conditions, according to newly appointed Director Jose Venancio Vero Jr., director of MARINA in Western Visayas.
In the memorandum lifting the suspension, Vero listed the following conditions:
* Passengers should wear lifejackets at all times throughout the voyage.
* Motorboats shall carry passengers up to 75 percent only of their authorized capacity.
* Motorboats’ tarpaulins/canvas shall either be rolled-up or removed.
* The operation of motorboats shall be during fair weather only (wind not more than Force 3 of the Beaufort scale or 7-10 knots, and the wave height not more than 0.5 meters).
* The operation will be from sunrise to sunset only.
* The motorboats shall be equipped with distress signals/equipment.
Violations of these conditions would mean the suspension of the erring motorboat’s franchise.
“Upon the directive of the Officer-in-Charge, MARINA and in order to address the stranding of passengers in Guimaras, the suspension of operation of passenger bancas in the Guimaras to Iloilo and vice versa route is hereby temporarily lifted,” read part of the memorandum that Vero signed.
Department of Transportation (DOTr) assistant secretary for communications Goddes Hope Libiran said the order was based on the directive of DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade.
Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Western Visayas commander Commodore Allan Victor Dela Vega urged passengers to wear lifejackets.
“Accidents can’t be predicted. You don’t want to be caught flat-footed. If you’re just holding your lifejacket baka hindi mo na masuot,” said Dela Vega.
He also clarified that passengers have the option of bringing and wearing their own lifejackets if they are not comfortable with those being provided by the motorboats.
Regarding the motorboats’ tarpaulins/canvas that served as roof or side curtains, he said, “Initial investigation of the Aug. capsizing of the three motorboats showed that malaking contributory factor in the incident ‘yung design ng trapal or canvas; it caught the wind.”
Dela Vega also said motorboats would only be allowed to operate from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“We will strictly enforce this so huwag na po tayong papagabi. If you can’t make it to the boat by 6 p.m., better spend the night in Iloilo City or in Guimaras. So you have to really plan your schedule,” he stressed.
Dela Vega also said passengers should be truthful when registering their names in the motorboats’ manifestos.
The 10-day grounding of the motorboats adversely affected the people of Guimaras and the province’s economy, according to Gov. Samuel Gumarin.
Gumarin said “70 to 80 percent” of Guimaras’ needs were sourced from Iloilo. With goods difficult to transport and people stranded, the past 10 days felt like Guimaras became isolated, he lamented.
During those days, three roll on, roll off (ro-ro) vessels from FF Cruz Shipping Corp. and Montenegro Shipping Lines, Inc., plus two fast crafts from Oceanjet Shipping and Philippine Fast Ferries Corp., operated the Iloilo to Jordan, Guimaras route.
They will continue to serve their routes despite the resumption of the motorboats’ trips.
Dela Vega said passengers with more than 20 kilos of baggage won’t be allowed to board motorboats; they should take the ro-ro or fast crafts.
To further increase transportation services available to passengers in the region, Atlantic Johan Express Corp. intends to send out three passenger ships — two to be deployed in the Iloilo to Jordan, Guimaras route and one in the Iloilo to Buenavista, Guimaras route.
SRN Fast Seacrafts, Inc. on Monday also volunteered to deploy one of their ships to ply the Iloilo-Buenavista, Guimaras route.
Four days after the Aug. 3 sea mishap, a total of six officials from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and MARINA were relieved from their posts to pave the way for an impartial investigation.
Yesterday, a few hours after the resumption of the motorboats’ operation, the coastguard temporarily suspended trips because of the big waves. After around 30 minutes, the boats were allowed to resume their trips./PN