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Monday, January 21, 2019

15 saved from ‘illegal’ banca

ALL 15 persons on a motorized banca that capsized between Camotes and Danao City at dawn yesterday survived, after being rescued by a passenger vessel named Wonderful Stars.

But unless one of the survivors files a complaint, the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) 7 said it cannot ask the banca’s operator to explain what happened, because the banca wasn’t registered with the agency.

Commodore Enrico Evangelista, commander of the Philippine Coast Guard-Central and Eastern Visayas Command, said that the banca, named Vic, left San Francisco, Camotes at 5:30 p.m. last Sunday.

It capsized around 4 a.m. yesterday but all 15 persons on board were rescued by the MV Wonderful Stars of Roble Shipping Lines, which was bound for Ormoc City.

Captain James Saavedra, master of the Wonderful Stars, informed the Coast Guard Station in Danao City by radio that banca operator Abelito Flores, 61, and his 14 passengers were rescued and brought to Ormoc City.

The passengers were identified as Yu Won Royles, 5; Shanicyle Junio, 5; Shelo Junio, 26; Dexter Royles, 36; Johnny Lawas, 27; Ulysses Torres, 38; Ronnel Maestrado, 26; Ace Patiga, 23; Jayle Inot, 20; Anne Christine Royles, 35; Lalaine Pulot, 34; Kimberley Oblemaga, 26; Inigo Rondado, 63; and Brigette Royles, 32.

Good condition

The rescued passengers arrived back in Cebu from Ormoc City at 4 p.m. and were whisked to the Cebu Coast Guard Station headquarters.

Evangelista said that the passengers were accounted for and in good physical condition, and that the master of the Wonderful Stars was advised to file a marine protest.

But lawyer Jose Cabatingan, regional legal officer of the Marina 7, said they cannot issue a show-cause order against the operator of the banca, because it was not registered with their office.

Cabatingan said that Marina will, however, accept any complaints that may be filed by the passengers against the banca owner and crew.

Cabatingan said they tasked senior maritime specialist Jess Quino to investigate and recommend how to stop the illegal operations of unregistered motorized bancas.

Safety’s sake

Evangelista said there must be an integrated effort among agencies like the PCG, Marina, Cebu Port Authority, Philippine Ports Authority, local government units (LGUs) and the riding public to stop undocumented banca operations.

“The riding public must not patronize colorum vessels. They must realize that they are not safe when riding undocumented vessels since those are not covered by insurance in case something happens. We cannot assure that life-saving devices are adequate for all passengers since the vessels are not inspected by Coast Guard and Marina,” Evangelista said.

Evangelista said that LGUs, especially coastal barangays, play an important role in supporting government agencies and ensuring the safety of inter-island travelers.

Marina and Coast Guard are members of the Regional Management Council (RMC), composed of government agencies attached to the Department of Transportation and Communication.

During the RMC meeting last month, one of the points raised was that undocumented motorized bancas ferry passengers from Cebu to other provinces, even without Marina registration and Coast Guard inspection.
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