By Joseph B.A. Marzan
Local chief executives of Iloilo City and the province of Guimaras on Saturday called out the Maritime Industry Authority-Region 6 (MARINA-6) over its supposed new policy banning bicycles on board boats plying between the two areas.
A lawmaker upped the ante saying the policy might stall MARINA’s 2023 budget in Congress.
In a statement, Guimaras Governor Joaquin Carlos Rahman Nava said that if they could not resolve the issue quickly, he might ask his wife, Lone District Rep. Lucille Ledesma-Nava to raise the issue with the MARINA’s mother agency, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) during their budget hearing this week.
Nava said the budgets of the DOTr and MARINA might be deferred if necessary.
“The DOTr budget is scheduled to be deliberated in the House [of Representatives] on Tuesday [September 27], and if we cannot resolve it [with MARINA-6] at the local level, we will ask [Rep. Lucille Nava] to raise this issue during the budget deliberation, and to defer MARINA’s budget if necessary,” said Nava in a statement.
Guimaras Vice Governor John Edward Gando said the Sangguniang Panlalawigan will also act on the issue.
Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas also weighed in, saying that he would call for a meeting with the MARINA-6 early this week.
“I am calling the attention of [the MARINA-6]. They have prohibited bicycles in pumpboats going to Guimaras, [which] is known nationwide for her bike trails. I am calling on [MARINA-6] to explain this policy to me next week,” the mayor said.
Artist and biking advocate Rock Drilon also weighed in on the issue: “Iloilo as the bike capital of the Philippines/most bike-friendly and Guimaras as the bike paradise/best trails can be stripped off naturally with these developing and established titles in no time with the sudden decision to ban bicycles from passenger boats. This decision by MARINA is ill-advised and detrimental to the promotion of sustainable mobility, sports biking and bike tourism.”
Iloilo City Public Safety and Management Office head Jeck Conlu said he will also meet with concerned officials and agencies to thresh out the matter.
“I am saddened to learn of the decision of motorbancas not to allow carrying of bicycles to cross Guimaras from Iloilo City and vice versa. As a biker, myself, I also enjoy going there for leisure bringing with me my own bike. With this sudden turn of event, I will communicate with those involve and have a sit-in with them for reconsiderations and hopefully we can come up with a mutual agreement that will both benefit the bikers of Iloilo City and Guimaras,” Conlu said.
WHAT DO BOAT OPERATORS SAY?
The Jordan Motor Banca Cooperative (JMBC), whose statement on Friday banning bicycles starting Sept 22 triggered the local government responses, said they were only referring to prohibitions imposed by “authorities at the port”.
JMBC still did not make it clear who were the authorities they referred to.
They expressed understanding that an impending ban on bicycles on their boats may be detrimental to both Guimaras and Iloilo City, citing their recent reputational gains as cycling havens.
“It is not our intention to hamper the travel of every cyclist to and from our island but rather give information to them. At the moment the management is coordinating with the Authorities for possible means to resume transport of such items so that hobbyists who love to visit [Iloilo City] as well as locals whose means of transportation to their work will again be served,” the JMBC said in its Facebook page.
Another motor banca operator, the Buenavista Development Cooperative, told Super Radyo Iloilo on Saturday that they would not impose a prohibition against bicycles on board their boats, as they are yet to receive an edict from MARINA-6.