Authorities issue safety reminders to boat passengersBy Jerry E. Esplanada
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Marine transport regulators warned the public on Tuesday against patronizing “fly by night” or illegal seacraft when they head for the provinces for the long All Saints Day and All Souls Day break.
The warning came from both the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) as the Department of Transportation and Communications relaunched the seasonal “Oplan Ligtas Undas” campaign. Marina and the PCG are agencies under the DOTC.
Marina administrator Nick Conti told the Inquirer that “colorum vessels,” seacraft that are not licensed or registered to operate as passenger boats, do not have safety management certificates and “most of them do not have competent crew members… [nor] lifesaving equipment and insurance.”
According to Conti most “colorum vessels” are small fishing or cargo boats, usually below three gross tons, converted into passenger vessels.
Conti said an ongoing Marina registration program aims to legalize the operation of colorum boats nationwide, including those operating in Laguna de Bay.
Commodore Joel Garcia, head of the PCG Bicol district, said some local government units in his area were also in the process of registering motorized bancas engaged in the transport of passengers.
Meanwhile, Lt. Cmdr. Armand Balilo, the PCG spokesperson, said the command was “on heightened alert” to intensify security measures at all ports and ferry terminals nationwide.
“All Coast Guard units are directed to ensure that all maritime activities are monitored 24/7 while all personnel and PCG assets are ready to respond to any incident,” he said.
Balilo reminded ship passengers to “avoid bringing restricted cargoes,” including firearms and bladed weapons, inflammable materials and explosives, among others.
Sniffer dogs will assist security personnel in conducting random checks on passengers and their luggage at all ports, he said, adding that passenger assistance booths will be put up and manned by teams from the Coast Guard, Marina and the Philippine Ports Authority in close coordination with the Philippine National Police.
Upon the directive of Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, the PCG Action Center has put up a hotline— 0917-PCG-DOTC—to attend to emergency calls or requests for assistance from ship passengers.