Archive for the ‘Matnog’ Category

Wicked Weather Count: 2,500 stranded in Bicol, 50 homes destroyed in Cebu, 16,000+ flood evacuees in Agusan del Sur

January 15, 2009

Barely 3 days after reports of floods in Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental, and Northern Samar left a trail of death and inundation, about 2,500 passengers were reported stranded in Bicol, mostly in Matnog, Sorsogon. The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) temporarily interrupted the people’s sea travel due to dangerous weather conditions sweeping the country.

In Cebu, huge waves and ensuing floods destroyed at least 50 homes in coastal villages. Mayor of Ginatilan town Dean Michael Singco said people in these places were forced to move to safer grounds. They were transiently housed in schools and public buildings, before dawn on Wednesday, January 14, 2009 to avoid injuries and loss of life.

In Davao de Norte, 9 fishermen were rescued in rough seas after their nine unregistered boats ventured to open waters. Similar wicked weather caused flooding in Agusan del Sur when Agusan river rose, forcing about 16,267 people from 2,546 families to evacuate in temporary shelters. The towns of San Francisco, Prosperidad, La Paz, Veruela, Bunawan and Esperanza.—GMATvNews (01/15/09, Pantaleon, A)

A motorboat bringing passengers close to Bantique, Panay in the Visayas Islands sank killing Sylvia Cerezo, 63. Five other passengers namely, Godofredo Roxas, Rowell Baaquilar, Nida Baquilar, Jocelyn Baquilar and Margarita Dizon were plucked out from sea and led to safety. The small boat had Butacal and Pontevedra, Capiz as its usual passenger route.

The spate of wicked weather and calamities remind us of the importance of disaster preparedness in the community. People need to be pro-active in helping themselves for the government assistance is too limited. Needing our commonsense decision, we can’t completely rely on others concerning safety during travel particularly when the weather isn’t good. (Photo Credits Gahenty; Lino Almueda) =0=

RELATED BLOGS: “Floods in Gingoog City, Northern Samar, and Misamis Oriental drive thousands to evacuate” Posted by mesiamd at 1/12/2009; “With 17, 000 islands, Indonesia shares maritime woes with the Philippines” Posted by mesiamd at 1/13/2009

Two Boat Sinkings, A New Year Ferry Suspension in Bicol, Wave Height and Gale

January 3, 2009


For thousands of Bicol ferry passengers the forlorn walls of the ferry terminals in Tabaco (Albay), Pilar and Matnog (both in Sorsogon) was their New Year’s eve sight. This came about because government authorities, on the advice of the weather bureau, suspended small crafts from sailing citing forecasts of waves of up to four meters high.

This suspension is probably a reaction to the recent sinking of the motor boat MB Mae Jan which plies the Calayan island to Aparri, Cagayan route in which about half of its 100 passengers died. It was said that the weather was fine when the boat left Calayan but it turned bad before the boat reached its destination. The incident highlighted the disregard of PAGASA (the Philippines weather forecasting bureau) advisories which warned of big waves for that day.

Maybe the suspension is only correct. Forecast of wave heights should be the governing factor in ferry trip suspensions rather than wind speeds which is the basis for typhoon forecasts. It is waves that primarily swamp and capsize ships and not the winds per se. People should probably start to understand now that ships can meet sinking incidents even without a typhoon warning (and I am glad PAGASA now uses the term ‘gale’ to describe stormy sea conditions). I hope that government will stress more the importance of heeding wave height forecasts and educate people accordingly.

Sometimes I wonder if we need MB Mae Jan incidents for us to learn these things. But with the new system I hope the lives lost in that incident and in the MB Don Dexter Cathlyn sinking off Dimasalang, Masbate which killed about 40 people would not have been in vain.

This day, this change had a new twist. Ferry trips in Bicol were again suspended but this time the reason for the suspension is the refusal of the ship captains to venture out to sea combined with the barring of sea travel by the the Coast Guard. I hope this development augurs a new era of more pro-active observance of sea safety. I think we have needlessly lost enough lives in sea tragedies over the years because of the bahala na (leaving things to providence) attitude.

However, I hope this will not augur a new era of over-cautious sailing when ships are grounded when a storm is still far away and it so happened only that there is already a typhoon warning. Economic oppurtunies are lost this way. There is no need to automatically suspend ships when it is still shining and wave forecast is still moderate.

For prudence, maybe a finer distinction between small ships is needed. Old sea travellers know that outriggers and motor boats which are wooden are more vulnerable than steel ferries and there are bigger ferries that can handle waves better. The should not all be lumped under the category of ‘small sea craft’.

More passengers will be stranded in the future, for sure. But maybe it will also teach them how to read weather forecasts especially those that are available on the Net which is numerous enough and is up-to-date.

[photo credit: freewebs]

Do Ports Really Spur Investment?

November 18, 2008






When I first saw Kiwalan Cove east of Iligan City I was amazed. In its placid waters lay about 20 ships of various types and sizes, either anchored silently in the water or lashed to its dozen or more piers and wharves where some kind of activity is taking place. To a person like me who grew in the inland plains of Bicol imagining a dozen or so piers in a 5-kilometer stretch is unimaginable. Yes, I have seen a private port in the shape of Legazpi Oil’s wharves in Legazpi City. But I thought being the biggest copra exporter then in the world should have one especially since the old Legazpi port can no longer dock the bigger ships due to its shallow berth. Along my growing up years I always associated ports as government ports.

Chugging along barangay Recodo in Zamboanga City a few years later I saw three fish canneries lined up one after the other, each having their own pier. And right by them exists the biggest shipyard in Mindanao with over a dozen ships moored, beached or drydocked in various phases of completion, repair or refurbishing.

From Davao City going to Panabo City a sight similar to Kiwalan Cove is present. Several private piers can be found along the way with foreign and local ships docked. The government-owned Sasa port is one of the biggest in the country but I found out that two private ports are even bigger and busier than Sasa.

And, I didn’t know then that private ferry ports existed. But I saw my first when Daima Shipping constructed their private wharf in Mukas, Tubod, the capital of Lanao del Norte to service their RO-ROs crossing the Panguil Bay to Ozamis City, a move later matched by the Millenium Shipping of the Floirendos. Later, the government-owned pier in Kolambugan, Lanao del Norte died because of this.

Riding my first Mindanao to Bicol bus ride I came to know that the two ferry terminals being used in Allen, Northern Samar by RO-ROs crossing to Matnog, Sorsogon are private and owned by the RO-RO companies. The government-owned ferry port in San Isidro, Northern Samar lay unused and closed.

In my travels all over Mindanao I have seen the same pattern repeated, in a minor or major scale–private piers sprouting in places which is no longer within the city proper. I began to ask the question why. The answer I got is, “They (the companies) will buy where land is cheap and they will just construct their own pier and no longer go through the government-owned port; saves them handling and berthing costs.”

That’s when I suspected that the spiel I heard in Bicol that we need to put up government-owned piers to spur investment is probably just a mirage. A company will locate to a place simply because there is a reason for them to (for example the availability of cheap electricity like in Iligan City or the abundance of fish like in Zamboanga City). It is not the presence of a pier that will convince them to invest. After all it might not even use the government-owned pier.

Recently, three mining operations were highlighted because of some sectors’ complaints. In Catanduanes, Homonhon Island and Agusan del Norte these was strip-mining of the beaches for ores that will be transported for smelting in China. It struck me that those places don’t even have government-owned piers. The mining companies were just using shallow-bottomed powered barges to load their cargo.

So, it seems the explanation I heard is Mindanao is probably right.

[The ports shown above are not government-owned port.]

RO-RO Politics In SRNH And Bulan

November 6, 2008

A RO-RO (abbreviation for Roll On-Roll Off) ship are ferries designed to load vehicles using its wheels to roll onto the vessel and roll off the moment it hits port.

Last April, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo inaugurated the Central Nautical Highway (CNH) of her Strong Republic Nautical Highway (SRNH). This “highway” is supposed to connect Luzon to Visayas to Mindanao thru the central portion of the country.  From Bulan, Sorsogon, supposedly one can load a vehicle to a RO-RO bound for Masbate City. From Masbate City one should drive to Cawayan, Masbate to board a RO-RO for Bogo City, Cebu. Driving to Cebu City it could board a RO-RO for Tubigon, Bohol. Then driving to Jagna, Bohol, a RO-RO should be available for Mambajao, the capital of Camiguin. Then driving south to Benoni, Mahinog, Camiguin a RO-RO is available for Balingoan, Misamis Oriental. The final leg is a drive to Cagayan de Oro City, the terminus.

Complicated? Yes.  A pipe dream? Partly.  Some of the routes are simply not existing (maybe for show, yes) and will not exist for sometime because of lack of traffic, notwithstanding government lending programs.  There are better ways to get around inter-island and for the uninitiated, loading vehicles aboard RO-ROs is not cheap and for shippers it means a truck not rolling (no pun intended).

Obsession? I think so. Her father dreamed the Pan-Philippine Highway but Marcos appropriated it and renamed it after his fetish word, Maharlika.  No way to appropriate it back, she must leave a mark to replace what her father lost. Is it a wonder that some of the ports are named after her mother, Eva Macaraeg Macapagal?

But why is the northern terminus Bulan when the actual gateway to Masbate is Pilar, Sorsogon? Scuttlebutt is it is her way on getting back to the Escuderos who lord it over the 1st District of Sorsogon who are her political enemies.  The congressman of the 2nd District to which Bulan belongs is a long-time ally. 

Will this succeed? Fat chance. Passengers and shippers will always take the shorter and cheaper route. Decades ago Bulan was the gateway to Masbate but people and carriers shifted to Pilar even though it has no good port. But woe to all those that use Pilar. I do not know how to judge the IQ of decision-makers in the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) who would rather finish a port in Castilla, Sorsogon, a place that has no RO-ROs. Hmmm! Anyway, isn’t it known that we have “bridges to nowhere”? After all, as they say, everything in government is politics. I begin to wonder now what is the mortal sin of the mayor of Pilar against the powers-that-be.

Comparative examples? Plenty. San Isidro, Northern Samar is the official port opposite Matnog, Sorsogon. But since it is farther Allen, Samar got developed by private enterprise and now nobody uses San Isidro port anymore.

Same case with Maasin City, Southern Leyte. It is the official port of entry of Southern Leyte from Cebu. But when the port was finished upgrading only one ferry company remained using it. More ferries were using Bato (pronounced Baaato, not like the Bicol variant which is pronounced hard like the object it represents), Leyte though it is not part of Southern Leyte, all for the simple reason that it is nearer, cheaper and the travel is faster.

Is it any wonder why people cut across lawns rather than go around it?