By: Emme Rose Santiagudo
THE Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) Region 6 and operators of Guimaras motor bancas are now at odds over the ruling of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 33 allowing the use of tarp covers and with the newly issued specifications for tarapal/canvass covers issued by the former.
According to MARINA Regional Director Jose Venancio Vero Jr., they will follow the court order but at the same time they will also abide with the specifications issued by MARINA Administrator Vice Admiral Narciso Vingson Jr. on the use of tarpaulins/canvass in motor boats.
“We will have to follow the order of the Court kaya lang we will also have to implement yung order ng administrator kasi pag hindi naman namin magagawa, mananagot naman kami sa trabaho baka magiging insubordination ang kaso namin,” Vingson told Daily Guardian in a phone interview on Wednesday.
In a 13-page decision dated November 4, 2019, RTC Branch 33 Presiding Judge Ma. Theresa Enriquez Gaspar enjoined and restrained MARINA and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) from implementing the conditions in the August 13, 2019 Memorandum that the “tarpaulins/canvass shall either be rolled up or removed.”
“The Court believes that the implementation of the questioned memorandum is causing and continue to cause irreparable injury to the plaintiffs and the passengers plying the Iloilo-Guimaras Strait, day in and day out,” the ruling said.
The ruling is an offshoot of a civil case seeking declaratory relief, mandatory injunction and prohibitory injunction with prayer for a temporary restraining order against MARINA and PCG filed by concerned Guimaras residents through lawyer Vicente De Asis.
MARINA implemented strict protocols on motor bancas plying Iloilo to Jordan and Buenavista, Guimaras (vice versa) following the Iloilo Strait tragedy last August 3, 2019 which claimed 31 lives.
The boat trips were subjected to a set of conditions: all tarpaulins/canvass of motor boats shall either be rolled-up or removed; motor bancas shall carry passengers up to 75 percent of their authorized capacity only; motor banca operations are limited only to fair weather conditions; and boat trips are only allowed from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“According to the plaintiffs, these conditions have been causing and continue to cause economic and physical hardships and difficulties to the passengers such as higher fares and undue exposure to rain and sun. The counsels for the defense during the hearing conducted on October 10, 2019 manifested that the requests made by the plaintiffs with MARINA and PCG have not yet been acted upon,” the court order added.
Last week, MARINA central office issued a memorandum allowing the use of tarpaulins and canvass in motor bancas on the following conditions: the height of tarpaulin or canvass should be 1.8 meter; the length should be 50 percent of the length of the motor boat; the width must be 80 percent of the width of the boat; and the angle of deflection must not be more than 15 degrees from the horizontal line.
Vero said some motorboat operators may have misunderstood the ruling of RTC Branch 33 since they were only restrained from implementing the specific order of removing or rolling up of tarpaulins and canvass.
Hence, all the other protocols such as motor bancas shall carry passengers up to 75 percent of their authorized capacity only; motor banca operations are limited only to fair weather conditions; and boat trips are only allowed from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. will still be implemented.
“Medyo gipit na gipit kami sa sitwasyon kung saan talaga kami lulugar. Kung binasa niyo yung order yun naenjoin lang kami sa pagimplement ng regulation yung iba hindi naman, hindi naman siya nagsabi na ibalik yung normal operations dun lang sa tarapal,” he explained.
Vero said he was advised by Vice Admiral Vingson on Tuesday to follow the court order but implement the specifications on tarpaulin covers.
“Nag-report ako sa kanya kahapon na nakatanggap kami ng restraining order at nagpadala din kami sa legal office namin and sabi niya implement mo pero implement mo pa rin advisory ko kasi hindi naman siya kasama,” he said.
He emphasized that they will have to implement the specification unless the Court will also restrain them from implementing the new conditions.
“Unless i-enjoin din nang korte, pag nasama siya sa injunction then wala na kaming choice but we really have to obey the order of the Court,” Vero said.
Vero said they are planning to organize a consultation meeting with motor banca operators in Guimaras to discuss the court order.
“Bago maimplement yung order, mahalaga na magkaroon ng pananaw talga kasi yung order is only addressed to my issuance but not to the issuance of MARINA kaya maganda siguro pag-usapan natin or basahin niyo yung order ng Court,” he added.