By Raymund Antonio
Shipping passengers began leaving in droves at various seaports nationwide for the Holy Week.
As of noon on Palm Sunday, the Philippine Coast Guard recorded a surge in the volume of passengers, with 82,962 people traveling by sea to visit their home provinces.
PCG said the departing passengers were mostly from Western Visayas, with 19,118, followed by Central Visayas and Southern Tagalog.
Under “Oplan Byaheng Ayos: Semana San 2019,” the Coast Guard monitored the highest number of outbound passengers in Palawan, with 8,568, while 7,556 passengers departed from Batangas.
Other seagoing passengers filled up ships in various ports located in the National Capital Region, South Western Mindanao, Western Visayas, Bicol, Northern Mindanao, Eastern and Southern Visayas.
The PCG has been on heightened alert in preparation for the Holy Week since April 8, when the agency sent its three vessels and deployable response groups to intensify security in the ports and ferry terminals.
PCG commandant Admiral Elso Hermogino ordered stricter pre-departure inspection to make sure vessels do not overload passengers and have enough safety equipment on board.
Coast Guard personnel are also closely monitoring beaches, especially in known tourist destinations like Palawan, Boracay Island, Bohol and Cebu.
Hermogino said the PCG also has emergency response teams in case of maritime incidents.
Holy Week runs from Palm Sunday to Black Saturday, or April 14 to 20 this year, and is capped by Easter Sunday on April 21.
The Holy Week break is considered as the busiest travel period of the year as Filipinos go home to the provinces to observe the annual tradition and spend vacation with their families.
The volume of shipping passengers is expected to peak up until Wednesday when they visit their provinces during the Holy Week.
Hermogino urged the public to “practice patience” as he warned them against riding “colorum” or unregistered boats as well as overloaded boats.
“Even if there are warnings, there are still those who defy regulations. If only they follow the reminders of local government units and the Coast Guard, then we would be able to avoid accidents,” he said.