ILOILO CITY –– Residents of Guimaras province are struggling over limited boats and higher boat fares after the full implementation of the phaseout of wooden-hulled motorboats took effect on Dec. 31.
Passengers line up for hours at the ports in the capital town of Jordan and in Buenavista town in the morning, and Iloilo City in the afternoon, due to the limited number of fiberglass and steel-hulled boats that are allowed to continue to operate since Jan. 1.
Wooden-hulled motorboats were the main form of transportation for Guimaras residents, many of whom work or study in Iloilo City.
Around 91 wooden-hulled motorboats stopped operating due to the full implementation of the phaseout, which is intended to modernize transportation services and ensure the safety of passengers.
More than 20,000 passengers from the five towns of Jordan, Nueva Valencia, San Lorenzo, Sibunag, and Buenavista took motorboats daily before the pandemic.
The provincial government had appealed to the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) and the Department of Transportation to extend the Certificate of Public Convenience of wooden-hulled boats to avoid the shortage of boats servicing residents.
But in a letter to Guimaras Gov. Samuel Gumarin dated Jan. 4, Marina Administrator Robert Empedrad said the agency could no longer delay the phaseout program implementation.
Empedrad said the current number of fiberglass and steel-hulled boats, along with roll-on roll-off vessels plying between the island and Iloilo, is adequate to fully serve the routes.
These include two fiberglass boats and two steel-hulled ships plying the Buenavista-Iloilo route and two fiber-glass boats, one steel-hulled ship, and three roll-on roll-off vessels servicing the Jordan-Iloilo route.
Buenavista Mayor Eugene Reyes said the long wait for passengers usually occurs during peak hours from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. in ports in Guimaras and from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. in Iloilo City.
He said they were hoping that the situation would improve when more boats arrive.
The residents have also been severely affected by the sharp increase in motorboat fare from P15 to P50 per ride or P100 daily.
“This is too much, especially for residents who earn P400 daily,” Reyes told the INQUIRER in a telephone interview.
Reyes said that while they understood that boat fares needed to be increased due to the passenger limit of 50 percent of boat capacity, the more than three-fold increase is a heavy burden on passengers.
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