The continued blatant operation of unregistered pumpboats ferrying tourists to Panglao’s tourist and diving destinations remains unabated despite efforts of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Local Government Unit (LGU) of Panglao.
This was the candid admission of Darwin Menorias, Head of the Coastal Resource Management Office of the municipality of Panglao during the meeting of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) sitting as a committee of the whole on Wednesday, August 31, 2016 at the SP conference room, New Capitol Complex, Tagbilaran City.
Menorias told the committee that half of the seacrafts operating in Panglao are colorums (unregistered) and are mostly anchored in the seashores of barangays Tawala, Libaong, Danao, Poblacion, Bolod and Doljo.
Of the more than 100 pumpboats ferrying tourists for island hopping, dolphin watching and snorkeling, an estimated 40-45 of these boats are not registered with the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), according to Menorias.
By virtue ofÂ Republic Act (RA) 9295, known as the Domestic Shipping Development Act of 2004, all vessels used as water transport for the carriage of passengers or cargo must register with the MARINA and secure a certificate of public convenience or a license to engage in domestic shipping.
Passenger lives are put at risk with the habal habal boat operators more occupied with earning a living with compliance of operational safety standards at sea and safe manning requirements the least of their concern.
Bureaucratic delays and the lack of personnel has hampered the processing of the applications of hundreds of vessels plying their trade in Panglao with documents languishing for almost year.
Red tape in the MARINA has pushed pumpboat operators to brazenly break the law while waiting for the approval of their licenses.
According to Menorias, a meeting between the operators of unregistered pumpboats and MARINA is scheduled on September 15, 2016 to iron out obstacles racking the industry.
The committee hearing was triggered by the gory diving accident that claimed the life of a Dallas Police Officer, Hans Adrian Campbell and his diving buddy Norman Zheng after a speedboat strayed into a diving area off the shallow waters of Dulho, Panglao on August 2, 2016.
Both were hit on the head and body. Campbell died a day later while Zheng survived the incident that was blamed to the lack of attention by local tourism stakeholders to the booming diving industry in Panglao.
Campbell together with his family came to the Panglao on a vacation celebrating his birthday and marry his fiance when the freak accident occurred.
Meanwhile, the PCG told the SP that they have intensified their campaign against unregistered vessels with the apprehension of five pumpboats operating without Marina licenses and safety equipment. (Chito M. Visarra and Rey Tutas)