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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.

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