HUNDREDS of passengers were stranded at the Bacolod Real Estate Development Corp. (Bredco) port in Bacolod City, as well as in other ports in Negros Occidental, due to Tropical Depression Usman.
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in Negros Occidental on Thursday, December 27, suspended all sea vessel trips as the province was placed under Storm Signal No. 1.
For Bredco port alone, all trips of fastcraft and roll-on, roll-off (roro) vessels plying from Bacolod to Iloilo and vice versa were cancelled from 11 a.m. onwards.
A roro vessel going to Manila was also stopped from traveling.
A group belonging to the Servants of the Blessed Trinity and Healing Ministry based in Iloilo went to Escalante City for a prayer meeting early morning, Thursday.
As they were about to travel back to Iloilo noontime, they were informed that trips are cancelled.
At least 300 group-members temporarily stayed outside a pasalubong center.
Some, along with their children, were lying on the floor. The cement grounds served as a place for their temporary rest.
"We have no other place to stay. We have no choice but to sacrifice," 52-year-old Remeny Vilbar said, adding that "we will be patiently waiting until the trips resume."
A family from Cadiz City, who is supposed to celebrate New Year in Aklan, was also stranded at the port.
Rita Francisco, 49, brought her three small children along with her three relatives.
Like most of the passengers, they decided to stay and sleep at the port hoping that the trips will resume soon.
"We have no extra money to use in traveling back to Cadiz and we are pressed of time as our place is far from the city proper," Francisco lamented.
As of 4 p.m. Thursday, the number of stranded passengers in four seaports in the province were pegged at 1,288, records of PCG- Negros Occidental showed.
Lieutenant Commander Ludovico Librilla Jr., head of PCG- Negros Occidental, said stranded passengers at the Bredco port was 1,200; Banago port, 30; Escalante port, 55; and Sagay port, 5.
There were 15 rolling cargoes at the Banago port, Bredco, 60; Escalante, 30; and Sagay, 3.
Librilla said there were no stranded passengers at the seaports of Pulupandan town and San Carlos City after they issued an early notification about the cancellation of trips.
He said other passengers opted to go home after they were informed about the advisory but there were some who also stayed in the port, waiting for the next advisory.
Petty Officer Third Class Christian Abuyabor, duty boarding officer of PCG-Bacolod, said all trips of sea vessels regardless of gross tonnage were automatically cancelled upon the tropical cyclone warning raised by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa).
Abuyabor said there were vessels allowed to travel but only to "take shelter" in Iloilo provided no passengers were aboard, only the crew.
"We are really inspecting all parts of the vessel before it can leave the port," he said, adding that "we cannot afford to risk the safety of the passengers."
"Our mandate is the safety of the people, their lives as well as the safety of property," the PCG added.
Authorities are advising passengers to listen to the news and updates from Pagasa regarding the weather condition as well as on the status of trips before going to the port to avoid overcrowding and inconvenience.
Those who are at the port already are urged to temporarily take shelter in their relatives in Bacolod City as the lifting of the suspension of trips might take some time.
"As per our monitoring, there's a little chance of immediately lifting the cancellation of trips," Abuyabor said.
Based on the tracking of the typhoon, it will hit the region on Saturday, December 29, so heavy rains are expected to start on Friday, December 28, he added. (with reports from GYM)