Solon wants motor bancas to continue operations but..

GUIMARAS Rep. Ma. Lucille Nava (Photo Courtesy of Province of Guimaras FB page)

By: Gerome Dalipe and Emme Rose Santiagudo

GUIMARAS Rep. Ma. Lucille Nava wants the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) to continue allowing wooden-hulled boats, or motor bancas, to ferry passengers from Iloilo to Guimaras and vice versa.

In her privilege speech, Nava called on Marina to extend the moratorium on the issuance of certificates of public convenience to motor bancas until operators have complied with Marina Circular 2016-02.

The circular titled “Revised Rules on the Phase-Out of Wooden Hulled Ships Carrying Passengers in Domestic Shipping” is subject to a transitory period and compliance with the new required conditions.

This means that wooden-hulled ships with an existing certificate of convenience may continue to operate in their authorized routes under the required conditions.

These conditions include, among others, the validity for routes where there are no steel-hulled ships with aluminium, fiber, glass, or any other technologically improved hull material serving the route until the phase-out period.

Nava delivered her privilege speech following the maritime tragedy that occurred between Iloilo City and Guimaras that left 31 people dead on Aug. 3.

Of the 83 total passengers from the three bancas, 31 died while 65 survived.

The incident happened due to strong winds caused by the low-pressure area and enhanced by the southwest monsoon, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council.

President Duterte has ordered the Coast Guard to look into the reason behind the mishap to determine whether the tragedy was caused by nature, structure, equipment, among others.

The ongoing investigation also aims at enhancing policies on security and safety of the riding public as the top priority.

In her speech, Nava blamed the severe maritime transport shortage on the island for the tragedy.

About 18,000 commuters cross the Iloilo Strait daily onboard motor bancas plying the Iloilo-Guimaras route and vice versa.

Nava said the abrupt suspension of the operations of motor bancas put a sudden stop to Guimaras’ progressive economic activity.

“Now, after economically dislocating the motor bancas’ crews and its allied occupations, it is slowly taking its toll on the island province’s economy,” she said.

Nava said she was thankful for the temporary lifting of the ban on motor bancas with restrictions such as fair weather only, 75 percent passenger capacity, removing of tarps/shade, and wearing of life vest throughout the voyage.

The congresswoman also asked the Department of Transportation to continue to increase the number of vessels plying the Iloilo-Guimaras route to accommodate the 18,000 passengers daily.

Presently, the motor bancas deployed can accommodate only about 6000 passengers.

Nava also appealed to Marina to grant the wooden-hulled motor bancas special permits for chartering or whatever mode of contracting like water taxis.

“This intervention will minimize the economic impact on those who will be displaced by the eventual retirement of wooden-hulled motor bancas as a regular passenger conveyance,” she said.

There is also need improvement and expansion of the existing Jordan roll on roll off wharf, including the construction of more berthing facilities and a passenger terminal.