By URIEL C. QUILINGUING
THE Philippine Coast Guard may prevent passenger vessels from leaving ports based on the “professional judgment” of its officers-in-charge, even in the absence of a storm signal issuance from the state’s weather bureau.
PCG Camiguin station commander Azra Riza Suangco made this clarification during a recent forum at SM City Uptown. She also revealed that she was stranded due to a canceled trip which she ordered.
Suangco said Camiguin is in a unique location, the Balingoan-Benoni route being vulnerable to weather disturbances that could generate relatively strong winds and powerful waves given that it is in an open sea linking to Surigao strait facing the Pacific ocean.
“If the cancellation is due to storm signals, it will take time for us to lift to trip cancellation order since the weather advisory is issued every six hours,” said the PCG Camiguin head. “By looking at the waves and how vessels sway due to gales, we know it’s not safe to travel at sea.”
But the weather condition, she said, is not the only reason why scheduled ship departures are canceled or delayed since overloading, either by the number of passengers or cargoes.
“If we see many are standing, we do the headcount because there could be overloading,” said Suangco and hinted this could delay the boat’s departure. “The headcount must coincide with the names in the manifest.”
The manifest contains the registry of all passengers which, until now, has not been automated, the list could have been generated upon the issuances of boarding passes and passenger tickets.
Maritine Industry Authority regional director Felisa Sorongon, who joined Suangco in the forum, said her office is closely working with the PCG to ensure passengers’ safety, making sure all passenger seacraft are seaworthy and vessel owners are compliant with the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, more known simply as STCW Convention .
Sorongon said Marina’s Oplan Biyaheng Ayos, often heightened during the Christmas break, mandates life vests of all passenger vessels are to inventoried whether these correspond to the total seating capacity of the passenger seacrafts.
“Other than the required number of life vests, we also require an additional 10 percent children and infants,” said the Marina 10 chief.
Overloading, she said, can be determined by just looking to at the vessels load-line and often this is due to heavy loads of cargo trucks even as she agreed with the PCG Camiguin station commander that seating capacity is the basis for passenger volume.
She said her office has legalized the operations of about 200 pump boats that have been ferrying domestic and foreign tourists who wish to spend time in Camiguin’s Mantigue islet and White Island sandbar.
“By legalizing, we make sure operators observe safety standards,” said the Marina 10 head, adding that, in coordinating with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and Marina regional offices, they inspect motorized banca which fisherfolk use.