Iloilo court bars removal of overhead covers on passenger motorboats
ILOILO CITY –– An Iloilo court has barred authorities from requiring passenger motorboats going to and from Guimaras Island to remove or roll up their tarpaulin or canvass overhead covers.
In a 13-page order dated November 4, Judge Ma. Theresa Enriquez-Gaspar of the Iloilo Regional Trial Court Branch 33 issued a preliminary injunction against the Coast Guard and Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) preventing them from implementing a provision in the August 13 memorandum issued by Marina.
The memorandum, which allowed the resumption of operations of passenger motorboats plying between Iloilo and Guimaras, required motorboat operators to roll up or remove the tarpaulin/canvas overhead covers during travel.
The Coast Guard and Marina ordered the removal of tarpaulin covers after three passenger motorboats capsized on August 3 at the Iloilo Strait, leaving 31 persons dead.
The tarpaulin covers serve as a protection against the rain and heat but were seen by authorities as one of the reasons the boats capsized after being hit by strong gusts of wind.
But Guimaras residents have been clamoring to allow the putting up of the covers as many passengers have been continuously exposed to the rain and heat.
Last month, Marina allowed the overhead covers but subject to strict specifications.
The advisory, which covers wooden-hulled passenger motorboats in other areas, allows the putting up of the covers as long as these do not exceed 50 percent of the length and 80 percent of the width of the motorboat.
The cover should also be within a maximum height of 1.8 meters. Its angle of deflection should not exceed 15 degrees from the horizontal line, according to the Marina advisory.
But in her order, Gaspar said the policy is prejudicial to the health of the passengers.
“The trip from Iloilo (City) to Guimaras and vice versa takes 15 minutes to navigate in the open sea. Without the canvass to cover the motor bancas, the passengers are exposed to extreme heat and strong rain,” she said.
She also denied a motion for inhibition filed by the defendants and set the preliminary conference for the pre-marking of exhibits on December 6 and the pre-trial conference on January 23, 2020.
The other provisions of the August 13 Marina memorandum, including limiting the number of passengers of motorboats to 75 percent of its capacity, and mandatory wearing of life jackets throughout the voyage, remain in effect.
The civil case petitioning for declaratory relief and injunction was filed by lawyers Vicente de Asis, Eugenio Original, and Tomas Junco Jr. on behalf of Guimaras residents.
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