319 cargo trucks stranded in Sorsogon as pilgrims to papal visit given priority
MATNOG, Sorsogon, Philippines–Hundreds of cargo trucks, stretching at least three kilometers in one area, have been stranded for days outside of the port here and in three others adjoining areas along the highways in Sorsogon province as port authorities have been prioritizing pilgrims heading for Eastern Visayas for the papal visit in Tacloban City on Saturday.
As of noon Thursday, at least 319 cargo trucks have not been able to cross from the port of Matnog to Allen, Northern Samar, because only buses carrying pilgrims, private vehicles and trucks carrying perishable goods were given loading priority at the port.
With only eight roll-on-roll-off (Roro) ferries plying the Matnog-Allen route, Philippine Ports Authority (PPA)-Matnog port manager Menardo C. Adille said they have been holding cargo trucks carrying non-perishable cargoes.
Bad weather has also contributed to the delay of the ships’ turn-around time, he added.
“We are doing our best to accommodate all of them. But for the meantime, pilgrims are highly prioritized,” Adille said.
Adille said pilgrims were prioritized and allowed to travel first as per order from the central office of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).
To reduce the bottleneck at the Matnog port, many of the stranded trucks were held elsewhere and grouped about 10 kilometers apart along the highways in Sorsogon province, according to Senior Superintendent Bernard Banac, Sorsogon provincial police chief.
Banac said that as of last count, 165 trucks were stranded in Matnog town, 44 in Irosin, 30 in Juban and 80 in Sorsogon City.
The trucks stranded in Matnog stretched to about three kilometers, snaking along the highway leading to the town’s port.
Frustration has been rising among the stranded truck drivers.
They said they understood the need for pilgrims to reach Tacloban City in time for the arrival there of Pope Francis on Saturday but they also had schedules to catch and were running out of money for food.
John Rey Adrias, 33, driver of a truck bound for Samar from Metro Manila, said he has been stuck at the Matnog port area for six days.
“It’s unfair… PPA should be fair. First come first serve basis must be observed. Our pockets are empty. We have no money to buy food if we stay here for another several days,” said an irate Adrias.
For Ulysses Estedo, 38, from Lamizares, Northern Samar, staying at the port was more than sacrifice and equivalent to hunger.
“The trip should be alternate to be fair to all the passengers. I think this is also the best solution to avoid congestion,” he said.
Meanwhile, about 200 policemen and women from the regional police office of Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan) have been placed on standby for deployment as additional security forces during the Papal visit, said Superintendent Marcelo Morales, contingent commander.
The personnel came from police stations in Oriental Mindoro and from the Philippine National Police’s regional public safety battalion and regional headquarters, he said.
“We have been ready since Monday and just waiting for (orders from) the national headquarters,” he said.
He said the contingent has been trained on the security measures for the papal visit, including a “no-selfie” (self-portrait photograph) policy with the Pope, in case of their deployment along routes where the Pontiff would pass through.
With a report from Madonna Virola, Inquirer Southern Luzon
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