STRANDED AND STARVING: Thousands in Carles face hunger due to bad weather

THE town of Carles in Iloilo is popular for its islands and beaches. But its topography is also a disadvantage as fishing and tourism in island barangays are on a standstill because of the bad weather plaguing the province for a week now. (Photo courtesy of Al Destacamento)

By: Emme Rose Santiagudo and Gerome Dalipe

FAMOUS for its white sand destinations and islets, the municipality of Carles in Iloilo province is now experiencing the downside of being a coastal municipality amid bad weather.

Carles Mayor Siegfredo Betita confirmed in a phone interview on Friday that their town has been placed under a state of calamity since Thursday because of the stormy weather.

According to Betita, all 18 island barangays in the town were isolated from the world by monsoon rains and strong waves. These islands are now facing food shortage which could affect roughly 18,000 families.

Mga 18 ka barangays sa Carles affected sang southeast monsoon winds kag gale warning. Indi sila kapangisda kay indi sila pagpagwaon sang Coast Guard and gutom sila tanan,” he said.

Four of these barangays are in the world-famous Gigantes Island – Asluman, Granada, Gabi, and Lantangan.

Ang main livelihood sang mga tawo is fishing so tungod sa gale warning kag monsoon winds indi gid sila kagwa,” Betita lamented.

Carles Vice Mayor Arnold Betita II said that trips of fishing vessels have been already suspended for five to six days now due to bad weather.

Except for motor boats and fishing vessels, there are no other modes of transportation from the islands to the town proper.

Aside from food shortage, the bad weather also left 94 local tourists from Passi City stranded in Gigantes Island.

“They are composed of barangay and municipal officials nga supposedly ma team building and sa subong we are catering them. Sa mga future tourists, ang problema lang sa sina wala ta sakyan we do not have helicopters and RORO (ships) to take them,” the mayor said.

Carles is the northernmost municipality in the province of Iloilo and is composed of 33 barangays – 18 islands and 15 in the mainland.

Aside from Gigantes Island, the second-class municipality also houses the top tourist destination of Sicogon Island which is also affected by the food shortage.

Meanwhile, Betita said they are already coordinating with the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office (MSWDO) and the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (MDRRMO) for food assistance for the affected families.

The challenge now is transporting the goods to the island barangays.

Amu na ang challenge subong kay ang pag padala didto sa isla amu na ang problema kay tama ka baskog pa that even the coast guard indi magsugot nga may mapalawod,” he said.

The mayor also appealed to the provincial and national government agencies to help them by providing a roll on-roll off (RORO) vessel for the passengers.

Ang RORO nga steel-hulled or RORO nga fiber glass amo na pangayo namon. If the government, local, provincial, and national merge together and come up with a solution then we can prevent disasters from happening,” he said.

Meanwhile, Iloilo Gov. Arthur Defensor Jr. on Friday called for an emergency meeting with the Provincial Social Welfare Office and the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office.

Defensor directed the Capitol officials to prepare food packs and other assistance to the residents as well as the tourists stranded on the island. These visitors are also asking for food assistance after boat trips in these villages were also cancelled due to bad weather.

Likewise, residents from the three island barangays in Estancia, north of Iloilo, appealed for assistance since they could not sail to the mainland town due to bad weather.

The affected residents come from Barangays Bayas, Manipulon, and Loguingot, said Municipal Administrator Butching Aclaro.

Aclaro said the village chiefs from the three barangays have sought assistance from Mayor Melina Requinto, who directed the municipal risk reduction management officer to coordinate with the Philippine Coast Guard on the purchase of food packs.

The purchased food packs are expected to be transported back to the affected residents today.

State-run weather forecaster PAGASA said Western Visayas and the rest of Luzon will experience cloudy skies with scattered rain showers and thunderstorms due to the southwest monsoon.

That means residents in low-lying areas must be on alert for possible flash floods or landslides due to scattered light to moderate rains.