Chaos spreads to Sorsogon
Rainier Alan Ronda and Jonathan Carson (The Philippine Star) - November 15, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The usually sleepy port of Matnog in Sorsogon is now a scene of chaos as thousands struggle for limited space on ships carrying relief goods bound for Yolanda-ravaged Leyte and Samar.

Getting to the port complex yesterday was a challenge in itself as dozens of vehicles clogged more than three kilometers’ stretch of highway leading to the pier.

A Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) policy giving priority to vehicles carrying large volume of aid was reportedly getting on the nerves of bus passengers waiting for their turn to board RoRo (roll on, roll off) vessels bound for Tacloban.

The port of Ormoc has reopened, PPA said.

Rosenda Sumagaysay, PPA port management office director for Legazpi City, Albay said the situation had been chaotic since last week, or even before the onslaught of Yolanda when PPA suspended shipping operations as a precautionary measure. PPA Legazpi City has jurisdiction over the Matnog port.

By Wednesday, Sumagaysay said Leyte and Samar-bound passengers began to arrive in droves. “This is the only route going to Samar and Leyte,” Sumagaysay pointed out.

“All of us here have not slept properly since Thursday,” she said, adding that Matnog port was understaffed.

“Today is not an ordinary day. We are in a crisis,” she lamented, but added they were doing the best they could to ease the situation.

She said that they had asked the PPA leadership to send some personnel from Manila or Batangas to beef up the workforce in Matnog. Sumagaysay said she would stick to the PPA policy of giving priority to trucks carrying relief goods over RoRo buses with passengers carrying provisions for their families.

“Some people are already crying, begging us to give them space inside,” Sumagaysay bewailed.

Carol Mendezabal, Matnog PPA Terminal Management Office division chief, said the congestion was unavoidable considering the surge of people heading for Tacloban City and Samar.

Compounding the problem was the fewer number of ships, from the original 12 vessels to only eight, she said. The four, she said, were on dry dock for repair and maintenance.

She said the number of departures last Wednesday was only 14 as against the 22 to 26 during normal times. Furthermore, some 600 vehicles had assembled at the port since the resumption of operations to take their turn to be allowed on RoRo vessels, from the usual weekly average of 200. With Lawrence Agcaoili


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