By: Jennifer P. Rendon and Emme Rose Santiagudo
Passengers from both Iloilo and Guimaras had to endure eight long days as motor banca operations were suspended.
But on Aug. 13, 2019, passengers were greeted with good news as the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) officially lifted the suspension and finally allowed motor bancas to resume operations.
The lifting of suspension of authority to operate was contained in a memorandum issued by Jose Venancio Vero, Jr., MARINA regional director, stating “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 subject to conductions.”
Commodore Allan Dela Vega, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) commander for Western Visayas, confirmed the resumption of pump boat trips.
“The suspension of operation of passenger bancas motor banca trips has been temporary lifted in order to cater the passengers,” Dela Vega said in a phone interview on Tuesday.
However, the operations of the pump boats are subject to a set of conditions laid down by MARINA.
MARINA 6 Senior Shipping Specialist Joseph Rhoel Pador, said among the conditions is that all tarpaulins/canvass of motor boats shall either be rolled-up or removed.
“Based on the initial investigation, tarpaulins in the motorboats which are being used as a roofing material contributed to the two separate capsizing incidents last Aug 3,” Pador said.
The other conditions are:
-Passengers should wear life jackets at all times throughout the voyage;
-Motor bancas shall carry passengers up to 75 percent of their authorized capacity only;
The operation of motor bancas shall be during fair weather only. The wind should not exceed more than Force 3 of the Beaufort scale (7 – 10 knots) and the wave height is not more than 0.5 meter; and
-The motor bancas shall be equipped with distress signals/equipment.
At 8 a.m. in the morning, the first motor banca finally sailed from Parola Wharf in Iloilo City to MacArthur’s Wharf in Buenavista, Guimaras.
But before any passenger pump boat was allowed to sail, Coast Guard personnel conducted vessel safety inspections.
Captain Erlinda Benliro, Coast Guard Station-Iloilo acting commander, said that pump boats are not allowed to carry heavy cargoes.
Also, all passengers, including children and infant, should be on the passengers manifest “because they are part of the 75 percent passenger capacity,” she said.
Benliro said passengers should write their true name, not their pseudo names or aliases.
At any given time, if there is heavy rain and dark clouds build up, the PCG will also temporarily suspend all trips.
Boat trips are only allowed from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Beyond that time, passengers are advised to take the roll on-roll off (RORO) vessels or fast crafts located at Lapuz Terminal in Iloilo City or Jordan Wharf in Guimaras.
“I hope makisama ang ating mga pasahero. We are doing this for their safety,” Benliro said.
The lifting came a day after Governor Samuel T. Gumarin officially appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to allow the return of the normal operations of the motor bancas in Guimaras.
Since the operation resumed on Tuesday, Pador said they have suspended a few motor boats who refused to follow the protocols.
Dela Vega also reiterated that their office will recommend the cancellation of franchise of motor boats which will violate the said protocols.
“In PCG, our role is to enforce these guidelines. We will make sure that all the guidelines will be met,” he stressed.