House probe on sea tragedy sought

GUIMARAS Rep. Ma. Lucille Nava (Photo Courtesy of Province of Guimaras FB page)

By: Gerome Dalipe

IS the Philippine Coast Guard competent enough to handle maritime tragedies? How effective are its existing protocols in addressing sea mishaps?

These are among the top concerns of Guimaras Rep. Ma. Lucille when the House of Representatives begins its inquiry “in aid of legislation” into the maritime tragedy that occurred between Iloilo City and Guimaras that left 31 people dead last Aug. 3.

Nava filed a resolution directing the House committee on transportation to conduct the investigation to review the Coast Guard’s capability and existing protocols when responding to such an incident.

“Almost every year, similar maritime disasters occur in the Philippines that resulted in the loss of lives and property and this issue should be of national importance as it also affects the maritime community and its stakeholders” read Nava’s resolution.

Of the 83 total passengers from the three bancas, 31 died while 65 survived due to strong winds caused by the low-pressure area and enhanced by the southwest monsoon, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council.

President Duterte has ordered the Coast Guard to look into the reason behind the mishap to determine whether the tragedy was caused by nature, structure, equipment, among others.

The ongoing investigation also aims at enhancing policies on security and safety of the riding public as the top priority.

The Duterte administration is prioritizing the proposed construction of the Panay-Guimaras-Negros bridge, a Palace official recently said.

But the proposal needs to undergo several requirements such as visibility study and approval by the National Economic Development Authority (Neda), said Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon earlier renewed calls for the immediate construction of the bridge following the Aug. 3 sinking of three wooden-hulled bancas between Iloilo and Guimaras strait.

Drilon urged the National Government to proceed with the construction of the Iloilo-Guimaras bridge.

With the deaths of 31 people, Drilon said it is high time that the bridge be constructed to protect the riding public.

In the resolution, Nava said the maritime the disaster brought questions both in the minds of Guimarisons and the general public relative to the response measures of the Coast Guard.

“There is a need to review the capability, competency, preparedness and existing protocols of the Philippine Coast Guard to address these maritime incidents, as the agency is the one mandated to safeguard the lives and property in Philippine waters,” said Nava.

While Guimarasnons are still reeling from the effects of the disaster, Nava said her constituents cannot fully recover considering that trips of motor bancas are suspended almost every day to bad weather.

Such causes delay in the transportation of passengers and delivery of goods since the roll-on, roll-off vessels and the additional steel-hulled boats could not compensate for the required transportation needs of the province.

“There is a need for the Committee on Transportation to conduct a comprehensive investigation on what led to such heartbreaking disaster and to hear the plea of all Guimarasnons to set in place mechanism to prevent the recurrence of future maritime tragedy,” said Nava.