Nalzaro: Modernizing marine transportation


I GOT several feedback from here and abroad regarding my appearance as a news source in the Netflix documentary “Happy Jail” that featured the world-famous Cebu Provincial Detention Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC) dancing inmates. The documentary was directed by Emmy-winning, Fil-Am filmmaker Michele Josue, who personally interviewed me last year. Included in the documentary series is actual footage from GMA regional TV’s “Balitang Bisdak.” If you have time, please watch the documentary. I think you can search the film on YouTube. Nice daw kaayo.

Like its counterparts in land transportation, the Land Transportation Office (LTO) and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina), which regulates marine transportation, is also very inutile when it comes to its functions. We have heard about and seen those “floating coffins,” dilapidated vessels that are still allowed to sail which sometimes end up causing major sea disasters.

Maybe as an aftermath of the recent tragedies in the Iloilo-Guimaras Strait where several passengers died, including those nine from Cebu City, after three motorized bancas capsized, Marina announced that it is going to phase out wooden-hulled boats, or motorbancas, that operate in the waters of Lapu-Lapu City to ensure the safety of passengers. This is also in line with the modernization program of the maritime industry.

Marina 7 legal officer Daniel Martin Oral said Marina Circular 2016-02, or the Revised Rules on the Phase out of Wooden-hulled Ships carrying passengers in Domestic Shipping, should be implemented in the remaining months of 2019. He, however, said that there was a possibility that it would not push through. Well, this is easier said than done.

Do you think this will materialize soon? I doubt it. There are several factors the agency has to consider before going ahead with the implementation of the marine transportation modernization program. Why do you think the LTO and LTFRB have stalled in the implementation of the modernization program for public utility vehicles? The Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) was launched by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) in 2017 yet, with the goal of making the country’s transportation system efficient and environmentally friendly by 2020.

But have the two agencies succeeded? No. We can still see those dilapidated public utility jeepneys (PUJs), even colorum units, plying the streets. We can still see those PUJs emitting black smoke running on the streets. Yes, there are new units operating, but only a few. According to the figure, barely a year left until the full-blown implementation of the PUVMP, transport regulators said only more than two percent of the 170,000 jeepneys nationwide are new and modernized units. You see that.

Why? Because there is no political will on the part of our political leadership because of political accommodation. There are many groups like small-time operators, possible displaced drivers and the riding public that will lobby. Ordinary passengers will still patronize the PUJs as these are affordable. They cannot even control the proliferation of habal-habal (motorcycles for hire), how much more the PUJs?

Going back to marine transportation, motorized bancas are like PUJs. They ply minor sea routes from mainland to islands and islets to islets. They are used by tourists for island hopping. The fare is affordable. Now, what mode of transportation will Marina introduce to serve these routes in lieu of these motorized bancas? Fastcraft? Do you think the people in the islands will patronize these vessels if their fares are high? I doubt it.

I would like to suggest to Marina that before it goes after those small seacraft, it should run after those regional and domestic vessels that are considered “floating coffins.” Naa pay daghan diha nga naglawig nga mapawong ang makina tali-wala sa lawod (There are still many vessels whose engines suddenly conk out in the middle of the voyage).


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