Bantayan priests’ complaint

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Monday, December 16, 2013

WITHIN two weeks after Yolanda battered Leyte and Eastern Samar, the shipping company that I worked for, Gothong Southern Shipping Lines, Inc., made two voyages to Tacloban City carrying nothing but relief goods, not charging any single centavo for freight.

This was a mission of love and mercy, company president Charles “Bobby” Gothong explained to his employees, many of whom had to work even in the evenings to make sure the vessel could leave and deliver the much-needed aid on time.

That was a huge financial sacrifice for the company but Bobby had the full support of his board, led by his father Bob. Don Alfredo Sr. (DAS 1) was the first commercial ship to dock at the Tacloban port, paving the way for other shipping companies to follow, assured that the port was safe from derelicts at sea and looting on the ground.

I am mentioning this not to gloat over what we did (GS does its corporate responsibility without fanfare) but because I read in Cebu Daily News that the parish priests of Bantayan have complained to Gov. Junjun Davide and the Maritime Industry Authority against two shipping companies for allegedly not transporting relief goods from Hagnaya in San Remigio to their island, free of charge.

If I am not mistaken, there are only two shipping lines that ply the Hagnaya-Santa Fe route. But only one was identified in the report: Island Shipping Co. owned by a friend, Alex Tan.

CDN did not name the other shipping operator purportedly because the paper was not able to get its side. Maybe, it was referring to Super Shuttle which is owned by another friend and a former client, Paul Rodriguez.

The priests are frustrated because the shipping companies are not granting them any discounts on freight for relief goods and have embarked on a signature campaign among Bantayan residents “to denounce” them.

The office of the governor has no jurisdiction over shipping companies; the Marina does. But I doubt if failure/refusal to grant a discounted freight rate is sufficient ground for Marina to revoke or cancel a certificate of public convenience or impose any other sanction against its holder.

I can therefore only surmise that the purpose of the petition is to shame the ship owners into granting a discount, if not shipping the padres’ relief goods for free.

Wrong strategy.

Alex, who is one of the gentlest people I’ve met, had cried foul, again according to CDN, over the accusation. He was the first to carry relief cargoes for free, he said.

I can imagine Paul, if it is really his company that the priests are also targeting with their petition, similarly complaining about doing a Christian duty and still being pilloried at the end.

I can understand why the priests are disappointed that their shipments are being charged the full freight rate when they are intended to help rebuild the lives of those that Yolanda rudely interrupted, if not destroyed. They expect – and demand – everyone to be onboard in the rehabilitation effort.

But the reverends have forgotten that the ship owners are also into business, not into charity. Even as they go about performing works of love and mercy, they also have to think about bank loans, bottom lines and a decent return of investment.

It is unfair of them to require the shipping companies to continue to grant discounts on freight without making a similar demand on oil companies to lower the price of lubes and fuel and perhaps even on their employees to take a wage cut.

It is nice to preach about giving until it hurts but even the Good Book recognizes that what is Caesar’s should be given to Caesar.


Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 17, 2013.


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