EDITORIAL - That sinking feeling

The Freeman
EDITORIAL - That sinking feeling

Lately there have been several incidents involving floundering motorized vessels, also called motorbancas.

Last September 9, a dozen passengers, including eight children, were rescued after the motorbanca they took from Bantayan Island heading to Barangay Hagnaya in San Remigio encountered engine trouble.

The boat and its passengers were eventually located 15 nautical miles off San Remegio.

Last October 31, a woman died, three persons were injured, while 52 others were rescued after a motorbanca capsized between Gato Island and Garrasa Island in Daanbantayan, Cebu.

Rough seas were blamed for damaging the outrigger and flooding the vessel.

Last Tuesday, another motorbanca with 10 passengers capsized in the Hilutungan Channel off Maribago, Lapu-Lapu City. Eight passengers were rescued while two were able to swim to shore. Rough weather was blamed for the incident.

Just last Thursday, another four passengers were rescued after another motorbanca capsized off Hilantagaan Island, Santa Fe town. A small hole in the boat’s freeboard at the forward starboard position allegedly allowed seawater to enter and flood the vessel.

Of course, we aren’t moving to ban motorbancas from plying routes. We understand that they are a form of livelihood for the people who operate them as well as a cheaper alternative of transportation for the people who rely on them.

This goes especially for those who cannot afford a long land trip just to cross the sea between huge ports, or those who just want the fastest time between points A and B.

However, these recent incidents seem to point out that better care needs to be taken to ensure that these vessels are well-maintained, that they can withstand the harshness of the conditions that they are expected to face.

We have that sinking feeling maritime safety is being disregarded again at this level.

In three of the incidents mentioned above, loss of life, injury, and endangerment might have been prevented if the boat or parts of it had been maintained or made resistant to damage. Of course, we can never tell when something bad will happen, but a better-maintained or better-built vessel will always have greater chances of surviving bad weather, rough seas, and everything else that may come its way out there in open water.

It’s time for the boat operators, the Philippine Coast Guard, as well as other agencies involved, to again make sure only the really seaworthy vessels leave the ports with passengers.

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