By: Gerome Dalipe
ILOILO Strait mishaps survivor Richie Bustamante likened the sinking of their motorbanca to getting stepped on by a giant foot.
He recalled the weather was perfectly fine when he and 39 fellow passengers boarded M/B Jenny Vince from a wharf in Buenevista town in Guimaras Island at around 3:30 p.m. on Aug. 3.
But few minutes into the banca’s voyage, it capsized due to strong winds caused by the low pressure area and enhanced southwest monsoon.
Bustamante and his six-year-old son, Brent Kian, survived.
Locals referred to the strong winds as pugada, also called storm surge or squall.
The unpredictable weather simply proved that climate change is indeed real, said environmental lawyer Gloria “Golly” Estenzo-Ramos.
“I’d like to hear more government officials’ take on this. We should look at it as a challenge, crisis, emergency that needs to be addressed,” Ramos, Country Leader of Oceana in the Philippines, told Daily Guardian.
Before the sinking of Jenny Vince, M/B Chi-Chi and M/B Kezia left the Parola wharf in Iloilo City bound for Buenavista wharf in Guimaras Island also capsized past 12:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Chi-Chi was carrying four crew and 47 passengers. The Regional Police Office in Western Visayas reported that 12 of those on board died.
The second incident involved M/B Keziah, which was bound for Guimaras from Iloilo when it sank off the waters of Iloilo-Guimaras Strait.
Of the 83 total passengers from the three bancas, 31 died while 52 survived, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council.
In an interview, Ramos said that local risk disaster personnel should carry out a “holistic approach” considering that the weather is erratic and unpredictable.
Among the measures that should be strictly observed among Coast Guard personnel and boat operators is requiring all passengers to wear life vests before departing.
“This (capsizing) should be investigated whether all passengers were required to wear life vests,” said Ramos.
Swimming lessons should also be taught in school as a life-saving course.
“To think that you know how to swim, you are way ahead,” said Ramos.
In fact, Ramos said 20 percent of the Local Development Fund from every local government unit should be allocated for its disaster preparedness programs.
Congress passed Republic Act 10121 or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, to address the country’s susceptibility to disasters.
Such law mandated the creation of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and the institutionalization of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Plan (NDRRMP).