Sea vessels ferrying tourists to its two top island destinations has been blatantly ignoring typhoon signals issued by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA).
On Thursday, November 24, 2016, PAGASA hoisted public storm warning signal (PSWS) no. 1 due to approaching typhoon Marce (international name: Tokage). Expected to hit Bohol within 36 hours with estimated winds of 30-60 kilometers per hour
Typhoon signal no. 1 triggers a “no sail” rule for sea vessels of 1,000 gross tons or below but has been brazenly disregarded by operators of sea crafts plying the lucrative trips to and from Balicasag and Pungtod islands – two of the three islands of the municipality of Panglao.
Reports reaching theÂ ChronicleÂ showed that more than twenty motorized bancas with an average of 15 passengers, mostly tourists dropped anchor at Pungtod Island now known as Isola de Francesco while several dive boats were spotted traveling to nearby Balicasag Island.
Although PAGASA Mactan, Cebu forecasted that “Marce” will make a second landfall at 2 a.m. on Friday, November 25,Â 2016Â in Northern Bohol, seas around the island were reportedly calm prompting boat operators to accept tourists for trips to the two islands.
Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) – Tagbilaran Station Commander Benjie Quinisio when informed by DYRD “Inyong Alagad” about the continued trips of motorized bancas in Panglao promised to enforce sanctions against those apprehended violating PCG Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 02-13.
Two pumpboats were apprehended by the PCG not for violating the “no sail” rule but for lack of documents to operate – MB Azers Villa and MB Saint Joseph, according to Quinisio.
Despite the presence of a two man PCG detachment team in Balicasag Island, QuinisioÂ did not receive any report of dive boats in the area.
Boat operators have been playing a “cat and mouse” game with the undermanned PCG and is taking advantage of the seeming lackadaisical manner the Local Government Unit of Panglao has been enforcing local ordinances to prevent untoward incidents.
Seven vessels and four motor bancasÂ were grounded at the Tagbilaran City port after the PAGASA raised typhoon signal no. 1 and the PCG ordered all vessels below 1000 gross tons not to leave port.
PCG MC 02-13 has raised a furor from vessel operators over the strict implementation of the movement of vessels during storm signal no. 1 that has a negative effect on the country’s tourism industry.
The Bohol Tourism Council adopted Resolution No. 02, s. 2013 and Resolution No. 01, s. 2015 requesting the House Committee on Tourism to review the policies on the cancellation of ferry trips during public storm warning signal no. 1 and explore the possibility of amending the assailed PCG memo.
Ship owners and ferryboat and coastwise service operators voiced their concern on the urgent need to look into the feasibility of implementing a more reasonable start of the “no sail” period after storm signal no. 1 is hoisted.
The ship owners argued that the ban should consider the travel time from one point to another of less than six hours considering that the expected weather disturbance is forecasted within 36 hours.
Acting PAGASA Administrator Dr. Vicente Malano, a Boholano wrote the PCG “to go with the policy of reduced 24 hour NO SAIL WINDOW taking into consideration current weather situation such as sea condition, sky condition, visibility, rainfall, wind speed/direction and trend of atmospheric pressure over the area of ship’s origin, route and destination.”
But after the death of Dallas Police Officer Hans Adrian Campbell on August 4, 2016, two days after a freak diving accident in Panglao, a host of problems bedeviling the tourist industry in Panglao is now slowly being addressed including the strict regulation of motorbancas ferrying passengers to the two island destinations and those engaged in dolphin watching and diving activities. (Chito M. Visarra)