12,000 stranded in Matnog port fear disenfranchisement in Monday’s election

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LEGAZPI CITY, Albay, Philippines — Thousands of passengers stranded at the port in Matnog town in Sorsogon since Saturday might lose their chance to vote on Monday as repair works on the damaged roll-on roll-off (RORO) ramp would take another six days, the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD), said Sunday.

OCD regional director Raffy Alejandro, in an email message, said the current number of stranded passengers at the Matnog port has risen to over 12,000 from the 8,000 recorded on Saturday and the figure would likely rise, he added.

Majority of the stranded passengers, most of whom were going to their hometowns to cast their votes, were on board buses that came from Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon and were supposed to be loaded into waiting RORO vessels for land-sea trips that would end up in the Visayas and Mindanao.

As of noon Sunday, the total number of stranded passengers was placed at 12,455 with 115 buses, 309 trucks, 90 light vehicles, Alejandro said.

A long queue of passenger busses, trucks and light vehicles were occupying the 6-kilometer stretch of the national road and 1.2 kilometers of the diversion road in Matnog town, he said.

Matnog is 119 kilometers away from this city.

Alejandro said they have asked the Philippine Navy Headquarter for Southern Luzon (Navforsol) to send a landing ship tank (LST) and something equivalent to a RORO ramp but the Navy had no available LST for dispatch.

Alejandro, quoting a PPA-Matnog report, said normally, the port’s facility for RORO vessels could accommodate six passenger and cargo ships. But with the damaged ramp, it now could only handle only three ships at a time.

The Matnog port operated by PPA has four RORO ramps but only two ramps are operational since the two others are undergoing repairs. When one ramp gave way, the PPA decided to use one ramp still being rehabilitated.  Still, the port could not handle all the passenger buses and vehicles that have accumulated over the night, Alejandro said.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has provided 1,000 family food packs to the stranded passengers, he said.

The Department of Health (DOH) has been advised to monitor the health situation at the port, he added.

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