Surigaonons complain about high port charges for relief goods

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews / 14 Nov) – Surigaonons are urging government to help out in bringing relief goods and rescue workers to typhoon-devastated areas because shipping and port charges for trucks, even those bringing relief goods, are too expensive.

“What happened is that we are burdened by port charges and other fees,” complained Fernando A. Almeda Jr., president of the Coalition of Surigaonons for Good Governance-Transparency and Accountability (COSUGGTA). He said the fees could be used to buy more things needed for the typhoon survivors.

Almeda himself used to be port manager working for the Philippine Port Authority (PPA) in Surigao, Tacloban and other areas. He also founded and now heads the Smile Surigao Club, which is doing relief work for Tacloban and Samar.

City councilor Baltazar Abian, who is also president of the Regional Emergency Assistance Communications Team-Surigao City Chapter, seconded Almeda’s call.

He is contemplating to file a resolution in the city council and furnish a copy to the President.

Shipping companies here charge P5,000 for 10-wheeler trucks crossing into Leyte, plus over P1,000 in terminal fees. And the same for the return trip.

Abian, who owns a number of trucks as a contractor for various electric cooperatives transporting electric posts and other items, said he will be spending a lot aside from the fuel.

Abian and Almeda decided not to transport their relief goods via the Lipata port and instead hitch a ride on an LCT (land craft tank) barge owned by Marc Ventures, a mining firm based in Cantilan, Surigao del Sur. Its vessel was expected to leave this city at 4 p.m. today carrying P10-million worth of relief goods and another P20-million worth of logistical supplies such as drums of gasoline and diesel, two tons of crushed limestone (supposedly as material to cover dead bodies), and heavy equipment, including pay loaders.

Abian said they are worried over donors from different parts of Mindanao who are asking if there are ferries that could carry relief goods to Samar and Leyte. This city is known as the gateway to Mindanao with the Philippine-Japan Friendship Highway, with roll-on-roll-off (RORO) vessels regularly plying the Surigao-Southern Leyte route.

Almeda said that since the government declared a national state of calamity, it should also help out in transporting the relief goods from Mindanao. “Or at least provide a barge from the Philippine Navy,” he said.

Edgar Canda, chairperson of Bayan Muna in Surigao del Norte, said the government should shoulder the port and freight charges since donors are doing humanitarian work.

Bayan Muna and allied groups in Surigao del Norte have been collecting and repacking relief goods these past days.

Three shipping companies are plying the Surigao-Southern Leyte route.

The Maharlika Shipping Lines and Millennium Shipping Lines have vessels from the Lipata Port here to the port of Liloan in Southern Leyte. Montenegro Shipping Lines, on the other hand, have vessels to the port of Benit in San Ricardo, Southern Leyte.

Ruel Cayetona, operations officer of Montenegro, said they now have boats leaving every two hours because of the volume of traffic.

He said they are giving priority to relief and rescue teams and support logistics for the devastated areas in Leyte and Samar.

Liloan to Tacloban is approximately 109 kilometer. Benit to Tacloban is about 230 kilometers.