BENONI, Camiguin (MindaNews/05 November) – At least 300 passengers of a ferry boat stranded for almost two hours on Sunday demanded an investigation by maritime authorities after the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) prevented the vessel from leaving for overloading.
PCG personnel barred Super Shuttle Ferry 1 from leaving port as it reportedly had 70 more than the maximum number of 270 passengers it was allowed to carry.
Irate passengers blamed the ferry personnel for allowing those who had no tickets to board the boat, and demanded that the situation be resolved. Tempers rose when the boat that was supposed to follow Shuttle Ferry 1 left port with passengers taunting and waving at those who were stranded.
But boat captain Nomar Gilawan and his crew insisted that the excess passengers find a way to hide themselves from the PCG so that the boat would be allowed to leave.
“Unless you folks would cooperate we won’t be able to leave this port and that we will be delayed much further from travelling. Please stay off the side and try to blend in with the rest of the passengers so that we could leave,” said Gilawan.
He said the PCG was to blame for the delay.
PO2 Sionesio Millan, detachment commander of PCG Benoni Port, announced they would not allow the ferry to leave unless the passengers came down for inspection.
Passengers obliged but shouted in disgust that it was fault of management for not implementing the rule that only those with tickets should be allowed to board. Before going down the vessel several of them stormed the captain’s location at the pilot’s deck and shouted that the management should be investigated and held accountable to the delay.
Many passengers cited that they had appointments and business matters to attend to.
“The management should have been strict in securing those who are coming into the ferry. I have an appointment in Cagayan de Oro and now I’m sure will be delayed,” said Jesse Alimada, a medical representative.
Dr. Lourdes Camomot, a physician based in Cebu City pointed out the problem with the shipping company in implementing the rules and regulations.
“We actually got into the sister ship earlier at around 11:00 in the morning but when I saw it was congested and overloaded I asked the personnel to check since it was unusual to let the vessel travel in such conditions. But they did not take action so the 10 of us stepped out and waited for this one,” said Dr. Lourdes Camomot, a physician from Cebu City who visited the island relatives and guests.
Camomot, whose parents are from Camiguin, added that passenger safety would be compromised unless the ferry company strictly implemented its regulations.
Val Marquez, a software developer said it was not the first that the ferry company sent out overloaded vessels to sea.
“For several years they have travelled these waters overloaded and at the risk of their passengers. They allow other people to just slip through to earn more in the trip. I just lost a valuable appointment with a client because of this incident. They can’t pay me what I will earn from that business transaction,” said Marquez.
Some of the passengers decided not to go back into the ship, had their tickets refunded and transferred to another vessel.
“I can’t believe the attitude of the people in that ship. We can’t risk the children with us. They should be investigated by proper authorities. The coast guard should note that this is not the first time the shuttle has left the port overloaded,” said Laryniel De Leon, secondary school teacher who attended the burial of her grandfather in the island together with 15 companions.
Millan said it was the first time they asked the people to come down the vessel for ticket inspection.
The increase in the number of passengers leaving the island was due to the long weekend brought by the All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day celebrations. (Erwin Mascarinas/MindaNews)