By Marjaleen Ramos and Tara Yap
The Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) lifted on Tuesday the suspension imposed on Iloilo-Guimaras boat trips after 31 people died when three wooden-hulled boats sank last August 3.
Marina gave the go signal on early Tuesday for owners of wooden-hulled boats to resume their trips after the 10-day suspension as long as they follow the agency’s guidelines.
Among these guidelines was that the weather should be fair, and that the wind should not be more than 7-10 knots (Force 3 of the Beaufort scale), and the waves not more than 0.5 meters in height.
Marina also required that only carry 75 percent of passenger capacity be allowed in the boat, and that passengers should required to wear life jackets for the duration of the trip.
Tarpaulins and canvasses should be removed or rolled up, it added.
Motor bancas will also be allowed to sail only from sunrise to sunset and should have distress signals and equipment.
Since the travel ban was implemented, passengers had to line up for about three to four hours a day just to get a ride from or going home. The suspension of operations left passengers with no choice but to opt with RoRo vessels for a higher fare.
For almost 10 days, passengers had to stand in line at the port for four hours to be able to ride the ferries or RoRo ships. The fares were more than double of the price of the motorized bancas, which was only P15.
Thousands of passengers took the 15-minute trip across the Iloilo Strait after the suspension on boat trips was lifted.
“It’s good the trips are back. It was such a hassle for the people of Guimaras,” Arthur Castillo, a 61-year-old from Jordan town.
“We are grateful the normal trips are back,” said Jocelyn Gabion, a 59-year-old from Buenavista town.
Two hours after the trips were resumed, one boat was flagged by the Coast Guard because some passengers were not wearing life vests.
Commodore Allan Dela Vega, Coast Guard commander for Western Visayas, for his part, urged both passengers and boat operators to abide by the new safety rules.
Last August 3, three passenger boats capsized along the body of water separating Iloilo City, and neighboring coastal towns from the island of Guimaras. (with a report from Betheena Kae Unite)