‘Suspend terminal fee in Guimaras port’

Passengers wait for a RORO vessel to dock at the Jordan port in Guimaras province. (F. A. Angelo)

By: Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE provincial government of Guimaras has asked the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) to hold the P20 terminal fee to be imposed on passengers who use the roll on-roll off (RORO) wharf in Jordan town starting today, Sept 2, 2019.

In an interview with Daily Guardian on Air over Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo on Aug 31, 2019, Vice Gov. John Edward Gando said they wrote the PPA office in Guimaras and asked to suspend the terminal fee in the light of the Iloilo Strait tragedy on Aug 3.

Gando said they are still reeling from the effects of the sea mishap which claimed 31 lives, as pump boat trips are suspended from time to time due to bad weather.

The Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) ordered the suspension of pump boat trips during inclement weather to avoid the capsizing of wooden-hulled boats, similar to what happened in the Iloilo Strait a month ago.

Without the pump boats ferrying passengers between Guimaras and Iloilo, passengers board RORO ships that dock in the PPA wharf.

Gando said the extra P20 terminal fee on top of the fares charged by RORO and fast craft vessels that have become alternatives to the cheaper pump boats is additional burden to Guimaras residents.

“We are still grieving over what happened and now we are facing additional expenses when we travel to Iloilo City every day,” Gando said.

Meanwhile, Gando said Guimaras motor boat operators have two years to transition to steel or fiber glass-hulled vessels as mandated by MARINA.

“No less than Department of Transportation (DOTr) Sec. Art Tugade told us that we will be given two years for the transition period because of certain realities faced by modernization of the sea transportation sector,” he added.

One concern is the design of existing ports and wharfs which are more suitable for smaller wooden boats.

“The current ports are not ideal for larger vessels, thus there is a need to redesign the infrastructure. This is one of the reasons why we are exempted from the modernization program which was rolled out in 2013,” Gando said.

MARINA earlier said it will stop accepting registrations for new wooden-hulled passenger vessels, the most common modes of transportation in the Philippines, particularly in island towns and villages.

The move is part of the DOTr’s move to modernize the industry and ensure passenger safety at sea.

It is also seen as a ripple effect of the Iloilo Strait tragedy on Aug 3, 2019 where three pump boats capsized and claimed 31 lives.

“We have to phase-out the wooden-hulled… We issued directive na we will not anymore register ‘yung mga bagong wooden hull,” MARINA officer-in-charge Administrator Narciso Vingson Jr. said on the sidelines of the Maritime Safety Summit in Manila on Friday.

Vingson said MARINA issued the directive two weeks ago.

“Kasi kapag di namin ini-stop tuloy tuloy pa rin ang paggawa ng wooden hull,” a GMA News Online story cited Vingson as saying.

Marina said it will also stop renewing the registrations of existing wooden-hulled passenger boats.

Gando said motor boat operators have embraced the modernization program even if they have to spend P5 million to P8 million to construct the new boats.

“As of now, we have yet to adopt the design of the new boats because we are also waiting for the upgrading of our ports. Once they have decided on the ports, we will synchronize the procurement of new ships,” he added.

As to financing the new boats, Gando said the Development Bank of the Philippines offered long-term, low interest loans to the motor boat cooperatives.

“We will also adopt a shifting scheme for our pump boat crews so that they will not be displaced by the phase-out of the old pump boats,” he added.