By Tara Yap
ILOILO City – Passengers chided both the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) for what they deemed were illogical rules for wooden-hulled passenger boats that travel between the island province of Guimaras and Iloilo City.
“Ask yourselves: Which one is comfortable, safe and convenient?” lamented Zai Real Sables.
Against the advice of many, the 28-year-old Sables posted a photo on Facebook showing an unconscious elderly woman being carried out of the motor banca after losing consciousness during the 15-minute boat ride from Iloilo City to Buenavista town last week.
“Honestly, tell me if being soaked in the sun didn’t trigger it?” Sables said.
He was referring to one of Marina’s new rules already being enforced by the PCG, which mandates that tarpaulins that serve as roofs in the motor bancas be rolled, and wooden roofs removed, while the vessels are sailing with their passengers.
The new orders were crafted following the August 3 tragedy in the Iloilo Strait that killed 31 people.
Fr. Jose Elmer Cajilig, who lives in Jordan town, noted how removing protection from sunlight and rain poses a major hazard to passengers, who are senior citizens or have health problems.
“What if someone suffers from heatstroke or die?” Cajilig said.
Other stringent rules include that boats only carry 75 percent of its capacity, while trips are allowed only between 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Cajilig also wondered why Marina and PCG were singling out wooden-hulled boats carrying passengers along the Iloilo Strait, which was a very short distance, but not with similar boats in other parts of the country that travel longer distances.
While there is augmentation from steel-hulled ferries and roll-on, roll-off (RoRo) vessels, these options remain to be expensive for passengers as fares cost twice as much against what they pay for riding the motor bancas.
It is also affecting small-scale entrepreneurs, who sell vegetables and other food items. They rely on getting supplies from Iloilo City.
Guimaras residents also asked Gov. Samuel Gumarin and Rep. Lucille Nava to push the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to find better solutions for the current transportation woes that affect almost 20,000 people.