OPAV to look into plight of Iloilo-Guimaras passengers

Assistant Secretary Anthony Gerard “Jonji” Gonzales of Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (OPAV) with Iloilo journalists. (Photo from ASec. Gonzales’ FB page)

By: Jennifer P. Rendon 

THE Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (OPAV) assured that it will look into the plight of Iloilo-Guimaras pump boat passengers.

OPAV Assistant Secretary Anthony Gerard “Jonji” Gonzales said he will discuss with the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Philippine Coast Guard the concerns raised by passengers going to and from the island of Guimaras.

Motor banca passengers bound to and from Guimaras have to endure the rain and scorching sun while at sea as these sea vessels are prohibited from unfurling tarpaulin covers as a condition for allowing them to ferry passengers.

The policy was implemented in August after the Iloilo Strait tragedy that claimed the lives of 31 motor banca passengers.

While it might be illogical for some, Gonzales said the PCG might only be trying to be cautious in the aftermath of the Iloilo Strait tragedy.

“Let’s us see how we can resolve the problem but we have to make sure that safety is paramount to the public,” he said.

Gonzales added, “If 15 minutes under the heat of the sun or rain is the price we have to pay, for now, para mas safe lang ang mga tao, that’s okay na.”

Yet, he also acknowledged the inconvenience it might bring to the passengers.

“So, dapat may permanent solution like bigger boat or bigger ferry or the PCG could provide a permanent solution to this concern,” he said.

Gonzalez said his office will call the PCG, as he pledged to personally coordinate with DOTr on how to deal with it.

Meanwhile, the tourism industry of Guimaras has plunged following the Iloilo Strait incident.

Data from the Guimaras Provincial Tourism Office showed visitor arrivals from August 4-31, 2019 dramatically decreased by 73.84 percent compared to the 43,709 in the same period in 2018.

Tourism receipts of the province recorded August 4-31 also went down from P42.9 million in 2018 to P9.8 million in 2019.