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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Guimaras issued a preliminary injunction against an order of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) banning passenger pumpboats from plying their route when Public Storm Warning Signal No. 1 is hoisted.

In a writ of preliminary injunction issued October 21, 2009, Judge Merlyn Deloria of Guimaras RTC Branch 65 ordered the PCG to stop the implementation of Paragraph 6(a) of Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 01-09.

Issued in February 5, 2009, the PCG circular prohibited vessels of 1,000 gross tons or below, such as passenger pumpboats, from sailing when Storm Signal No. 1 is hoisted “within the point of origin or route or point of destination.”

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)-Guimaras headed by Atty. John Edward Gando filed a petition for declaratory relief against the PCG policy.

The petitioners claimed that the circular stranded more than 1,000 passengers and affected the economy of the island province when a typhoon struck last June 24-25.

IBP-Guimaras said MC 01-09 also “brazenly violated the due process requirement, right to property, the liberty to travel and equal protection of the law under the Constitution.”

The writ of preliminary injunction also ordered the commander of PCG-Iloilo City station to exercise “sound discretion” if pumpboats can travel despite the storm signal No.1 raised in the departure and destination points.

The RTC also ordered the PCG-Iloilo City station to coordinate with weather bureau PAGASA as regards the forecast position, radius of wind and route of the storm subject of PSWS No. 1.

The PCG must also coordinate with the motor banca association on the responsibility of the crew when sailing during typhoons.

The court, however, required the petitioners to post a P100,000 bond before the writ is enforced.

“The order means that the PCG can allow passenger pumpboats can sail despite a storm signal No. 1 if the sea is clear and the wind is calm. If the weather is very rough despite the absence of a storm signal, the PCG can prohibit boats with 1,000 gross tons or below from plying their route. The PCG is trained on sea navigation thus they are experts in determining the situation,” Gando said in a telephone interview.

Gando said the preliminary injunction will take effect while the court discusses the constitutionality of the PCG memorandum circular which is the main issue raised by IBP-Guimaras in its petition.

“If the court sees that the circular violates our constitutional rights, it can issue an injunction against the MC No. 01-09,” he added.

As regards the P100,000 bond, Gando said he will meet with Guimaras Gov. Felipe Hilan Nava on how to raise cash for the said bond.

Gando said Vice Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo, PCG commandant, had promised Guimaras Rep. JC Rahman Nava to issue a new memorandum circular that will address the case of the island-resort “but it has yet to be realized.”

“If that circular is issued, we will withdraw the petition as the case will be considered moot and academic,” Gando said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo and Tara Yap

 

THERE is a need to improve port facilities for pump boats plying the Iloilo-Guimaras route for the comfort of stranded passengers in case boats are barred from traveling due to bad weather.

This was the concern of almost 2,000 passengers who waited for over a day for pump boats to resume operation while tropical storm “Feria” passed through Panay.

The PCG bars all water crafts with 1,000 and below gross tonnage from setting out to sea when a typhoon signal is raised from their ports of origin and destination.

Pump boat operators who violate the regulation will be fined P5,000 per passenger on board their vessels.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) stopped all pump boats from Iloilo to Jordan and Buenavista and Guimaras Tuesday afternoon when weather bureau PAG-ASA hoisted Typhoon Signal No. 1 in Iloilo City and southern Iloilo.

Northern Iloilo and the rest of Panay were put under Signal No. 2 as of early morning Wednesday.

The stranded passengers waited from 1pm Tuesday until 5pm Wednesday for the storm signal to be lifted so that pump boats can ferry passengers across the strait.

While some of the passengers spent the night with relatives or friends in Iloilo, most of them stayed at the Parola area where pump boats bound for Jordan and Buenavista are docked.

Annie of Buenavista said she endured the cold night and rains at the Parola area thinking that the storm will soon pass and they could get home.

“If only the terminal is in good condition where we could spend the night away, we might not complain much. We understand the regulations but I don’t think it’s right that we will suffer this way,” Annie said.

The Parola area has kiosks for food and other items but it has no port terminal area where passengers could sit and wait.

Kalaw-ay gid ya sang port (The port is very bad),” a college student from Buenavista said.

Other passengers opted to board the pump boats to avoid the jostling with other travelers when the trips resume.

Some travelers complained that the boats did not have gangplanks for boarding. Instead, they were made to use the slippery boat outrigger. A gangplank is a board or ramp used as a removable footway between a ship and a pier.

Female passengers who wanted to urinate went to the nearby PCG-Iloilo station and other government offices in the area.

Passengers who were stranded in Iloilo city appealed to local officials in Guimaras to provide food as they do not have enough money.  Their money is only good for transportation fare.

Nani Galvez, executive assistant to Guimaras Gov.  Felipe Nava, told The Daily Guardian that the provincial government provided food for the stranded passengers at the gym of Barangay Concepcion near Parola wharf  in Iloilo City where many stranded passengers sought refuge. 

Passengers bound for Bacolod City were in a relatively better situation because they stayed in ferry terminals with comfort rooms and televisions.

The PCG lifted the travel ban around 5pm Wednesday after PAG-ASA cleared Iloilo of any storm signal.

As of Wednesday morning, the PCG said 1,405 passengers were in various ports in Iloilo. All over Western Visayas, a total of 1,619 were trapped because of typhoon “Feria”.

PORT PROJECTS

The Iloilo City government and Metro Iloilo Guimaras Economic Development Council have proposed the Guimaras-Iloilo Ferry Terminal System (GIFTS).

The GIFTS project, which is still in the feasibility study stage, will improve and modernize the Parola, Buenavista and Jordan wharves to cater to the expanding number of commuters between Iloilo and Guimaras.

The Ortiz Port, which serves passengers bound for Jordan, Guimaras, will also continue to operate to preserve the livelihood of residents near the port.

A pre-feasibility study conducted last year by the Consultants for Comprehensive Environmental Planning Inc. (Concep) showed the project is viable but it will require big funding.

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas said the project could be undertaken through public-private collaboration.

“We don’t foresee the government to spend, thus it will be a public-private partnership. The city government will act as partner, while the private sector will put up and run the facility because it will be difficult for the city to operate a port. Once the port facilities are improved, more tourists will arrive which means more economic activities for the city and Guimaras,” Treñas said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

ONE of the search and rescue vessels (SARV) of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) needed rescuing after it suffered engine trouble amidst giant waves off the coast of Antique Wednesday. 

 

BRP Davao del Norte (SARV 3504) lost contact Wednesday morning after it helped rescue the crew of cargo vessel M/V Ma. Lourdes which sank three miles off Bisay Island in Caluya, Antique.

 

M/V Lourdes, which was loaded with more or less 22,000 bags of cement from Iligan City, was en route to San Jose, Romblon when it was battered by big waves.

 

BRP Davao del Norte, which is based in Romblon Island, has 12 crewmembers, according to Commander Harold Jarder, PCG-Iloilo station chief.

 

Army air assets and Navy ships helped search for Davao del Norte. It was later found near Boracay Island following an aerial survey by the Air Force.

 

Jarder said Davao del Norte’s crew are safe and sound while the ship was brought to Lipata port in Culasi, Antique.

 

Jarder said the ship suffered power failure after it was battered by big waves.

 

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) will strictly regulate transporting of firecrackers from Iloilo to Guimaras and Negros Island onboard ships.

 

Commander Harold Jarder, PCG-Iloilo station commander, issued the order as part of safety measures on ships and pump boats plying Guimaras and Bacolod City.

 

Jarder warned firecracker manufacturers against transporting pyrotechnics on board sea vessels as these pose grave dangers to the lives of other passengers.

 

The PCG head said firecracker manufacturers and traders should secure permits from the Police Regional Office (PRO-6) before moving their goods on board ships and pump boats.

 

Despite the permits, Jarder said they will still regulate the volume of firecrackers to be loaded on ships to avoid sea accidents.

 

The Arevalo district is considered as the firecracker capital of the city and province of Iloilo because of the large number of pyrotechnic factories located mostly in households. 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

COMMERCIAL ships can go on their usual routes even if public storm warning signal (PSWS) No. 1 is hoisted in their ports of origin and destination.

 

This is the new regulation issued by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) national headquarters in response to the qualms of shipping lines whose vessels are stranded every time PSWS No. 1 is raised in parts of the country.   

 

HPCG Memorandum Circular No. 07-08 superseded interim MC No. 06-08 which barred all ships of any tonnage from sailing in case PSWS No. 1 is hoisted.

 

But in MC No. 07-08, which was issued in September, only sea vessels of 1,000 gross tonnage and below will not be allowed to leave the port during signal No. 1.

 

Commander Harold Jarder, PCG-Iloilo station chief, said once MC No. 07-08 takes effect, ships with more than 1,000 GT, which includes passenger and cargo vessels, can now sail despite storm signal No. 1. 

 

“This regulation is more on the economic side because the Coast Guard does not want to hamper the movement of passengers and commercial cargo. We already saw what happened in the last two typhoons when thousands of passengers were stranded even if the storm was weak,” Jarder said.

 

But if the storm signal is raised to No. 2, all ships will be prohibited from sailing, Jarder said.

 

Jarder said the new regulation will take effect after it is published in a newspaper of national circulation.

 

But even before the MC No. 07-08 is implemented, the municipal government of Buenavista, Guimaras has asked the Coast Guard to exempt pump boats plying Guimaras-Iloilo route from the regulation.

 

The request is in the form of resolution passed by the Buenavista municipal council last November 12.

 

Jarder said he referred the resolution to their higher headquarters “and it is being seriously considered by the Maritime Safety Services of the PCG.”

 

“If the request of Buenavista is granted, pump boats can be allowed to travel within light of sight. This means, the completion of the voyage can be physically observed,” Jarder said.        

 

Jarder said there are times when PSWS 1 is raised “but the seas are calm and there are no strong winds which can be safe for pump boats to sail.” 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

TROPICAL depression Quinta has claimed the lives of 13 persons in Western Visayas while several others were injured after several boats capsized amid giant waves.

 

The death toll of the ill-fated passenger motor banca Rolev V (not Role 4 as earlier reported) which capsized in Brgy. Bagongon in Isla Tagubanhan, Concepcion, Iloilo rose to 12 while two others remain missing.

 

The Iloilo Provincial Police Office (IPPO), Philippine Coast Guard and the municipality of Concepcion continue to search for the two missing passengers.

 

The banca sunk amid big waves caused by tropical depression Quinta which passed northern Panay area Thursday afternoon.

 

A total of 31 passengers survived and rescued by emergency responders.

 

Rolev V was ferrying a total of 43 passengers who went marketing in Concepcion town proper when it capsized.

 

The 12 fatalities were identified as Leonil Villaran, 30, Antonia dela Cruz, 50, Juanito Musico, 71, Shiela Olano, Miriam Salundagit, 60, Carmen Padrillan, 71, Aida Libre, 55, Frenz Cedric Depositario, 4, Lila Bilano, 61, Jethniel Flores, 3, Regine Caberoy and Adam Clark Villaran.

 

Of the 31 survivors, 24 are in Brgy. Bagongon while 7 are confined in Sara District Hospital.

 

The IPPO also reported that a fishing trawl with 13 crewmembers also capsized near Brgy. Mananabang, Concepcion Thursday.

 

One crewmember of the Roxas City-based fishing boat remains missing while the rest survived unscathed.

 

A total of seven passengers were injured after M/B April Joy, M/B Jona 1 and Nonoy Mike capsized off Carles and Batad.

 

Governor Niel Tupas said the provincial government will extend financial help to the families of the fatalities.

 

A 58-year-old construction worker died after being dragged into the sea while catching shrimps along the shores of Purok 4, Barangay Singcang-Airport in Bacolod City, Thursday afternoon.

 

Members of the Amity Volunteer Brigade found Saturnino Gonzaga’s body after searching for the construction worker for two hours. His body was caught by a fisherman’s net several kilometers from the shore.

 

Some 30 families were left homeless after their houses were destroyed by a tornado in Barangay Catabla, Talisay City.

 

The Negros Occidental provincial disaster management division said 59 homes were also damaged by the tornado that struck the village at the height of the storm.

 

More than 20 families from different villages in Bacolod City, who are residing along riverbanks, also evacuated their homes after their houses were hit by strong flood waters.

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