Robredo seeks lifting of 'knee-jerk' ban on Iloilo-Guimaras boat trips

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo is urging the government to reconsider its decision to suspend operations of all passenger motor bancas passing along the Iloilo-Guimaras Strait, where multiple boat accidents killed at least 31 people

After meeting with several survivors and the victims' relatives on Monday, August 12, Robredo said it may have been too hasty for the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) to suspend the passenger boats' operations.

"Ang sinasabi nila iyong kabuhayan na nila iyong apektado...dahil sa pag-cancel ng mga trips. Tingin ko hindi dapat iyong reaksyong knee-jerk. Dapat konsultahin iyong mga tao dito, pag-usapan nang maayos. Kasi ayaw natin na on top of the tragedy na pinagdaanan nila, may another tragedy na mangyayari," Robredo told reporters in Jordan, Guimaras.

(They're saying their livelihoods are now affected by the cancellation of the trips. I think there shouldn't have been a knee-jerk reaction. The people should be consulted here. We don't want another tragedy to happen on top of the tragedy they've already experienced.)

Marina earlier directed two roll-on, roll-off (RO-RO) vessels to increase the frequency of their trips along the Iloilo-Guimaras route to cater to the transportation needs of passengers in the affected area.

But Robredo said this is not enough, after personally seeing the long lines of people trying to get aboard the RO-RO vessels on Monday.

"Iyong mga may sakit daw hindi kinakaya iyong pila. Nakita naman natin. Nakita natin kung gaano kagrabe," said the Vice President.

(Some of those who are sick were unable to endure the lines. We personally saw that. We saw how dire the situation is.) 

Robredo then called on the government to conduct a thorough investigation on the accidents. 

"Siguro iyong pinaka-request natin [ay] magkaroon ng masusing imbestigasyon, para kung mayroong kailangang managot, managot," she said.  

(We request that there be a thorough investigation, so we can hold accountable those who are responsible for what happened.)

In a separate interview in Mandurriao, Iloilo City, Robredo said her office, through her flagship anti-poverty program Angat Buhay, has provided cash assistance to the kin of the victims as well as those who survived the boat accidents. The Vice President, however, has refused to disclose the amount of the donation.

The Office of the Vice President continues to consult with those affected by the sea tragedy to determine other ways to help them, including giving them access to psychosocial services.

"Mayroon kaming kaunting financial help na ibinigay ngayon, pero may mga kailangan silang asikasuhin na mga papeles, pati iyong psychosocial na services. Gusto lang natin masiguro na makumpleto iyon, kasi iyong mga survivors na kausap natin sa loob, ano pa din, tingin natin maraming tulong iyong kailangan," said Robredo.

(We provided some financial help for now, but there are still other forms of assistance we are fixing, including psychosocial services. We want to complete our assistance, because according to the survivors we have spoken to, they still need a lot of help.)

The Philippine Coast Guard believes squalls or sudden strong gusts of wind at sea sunk the 3 passenger boats, ruling out collision and overloading of passengers as causes of the accidents. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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