Is common pier the soliution to Panglao motor banca woes?

A motor banca operator may have given a solution for the woes the industry is facing.

“Panglao could have solved most of its maritime safety regulations had it acted decisively on the single docking facility for its island hopping boats.”

This comment came from a motor banca operator who has had just claimed his Maritime Authority of The Philippines (MARINA) permits and certificates for public convenience but could only be beaten to the draw by colorum banca operators.

Politely refusing to be named, this banca operator said he can’t solely point the blame to the gravely undermanned Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to keep watch over Bohol’s stretching shorelines and implement maritime security laws.

Earlier, even the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) pleaded for the Local Government Unit to help them do their jobs well.

Amidst mounting threat of maritime accidents over colorum bancas and illegal inter provincial trips by motorized bancas with permits only specific to Bohol, PCG Panglao Ensign Ralph Barajan urges government officials to help them.

The same echoes the call by PCG Bohol District Lieutenant Junior Grade Jimmy Berbo, who has aired his apprehension over the rampant violations that just slip by government authorities noses for want of warm bodies.

In Panglao alone, the PCG keeps watch over the 1.2 kilometer Alona stretch where most of the tourists are loaded for their island hopping and dolphin watching tours.

Over all, in the tourist island of Panglao alone, which has Balicasag and Puntod and Gak-ang islets own more than 30 kilometers of coastlines, which luckily has a PCG detachment.

That same time PCG clears Alona trips, several boats simultaneously embark passengers from Dumalu-an, Libaong, San Isidro, Dao, Doljo and Poblacion, which the PCG could not effectively check.

Tourists who come to Panglao and go off on island hopping trips have suggested to adopt a common docking station for all boats, to facilitate clearing by authorities, but Panglao has not been as receptive, PCG elements mourned.

Councilor Rogelin Degoma, in an interview has affirmed that a presence of a common docking station can be a great help, especially now that boats are back obstructing the view in Alona.

The PCG, in adherence to law and in the implementation of the maritime safety laws as its mandate is implementing an ongoing crackdown over colurum bancas.

Colorum bancas are those that have no registrations from the MARINA, but still insists on operating dolphin and whale watching as well as island-hopping activities especially offering their illegal services to tourists.

On the implementation of the law, to help those colorum banca operators who have the honest to goodness intent to go legal, councilor Degoma pushed for a resolution calling for a special registration, last year.

Of the over 300 boat-owners who came to register for the pro-poor registration, about 100 owners came home with legitimate papers, reported MARINA Bohol chief Norma Enriquez.

But the permits, which the government released to boat owners who had light motor boats below the 35 gross tons (GT) weight class get a river and bay license, which is different from a coastwise license.

A coastwise license allows over 35 GT boat to cross channels like Bohol to Cebu, Negros or Siquijor, while a river and bay license only allows travel along the coastlines and to islands and islets within the province’s protected waters.

Although the boat permits allowed the operation of the boats from Panglao island to neighboring island and islets in Bohol, Degoma also said many boat owners think that their permits, which the regional MARINA office issued, already allows them the right to ferry inter-provincial passengers.

We want this clarified, she said.

A few weeks ago, the PCG received a distress call channeled to Coast Guard Auxiliary Officer Holger Horn about a Panglao boat bound to Oslob in Cebu, with an engine dead in the water.

The incident was the second in recent times that a river and bay boat illegally ferried passengers across channels, according to the PCG.
Along this, the PCG has asked tourists not to patronize travel agencies that sell Oslob and Siquijor even as they hope Bohol tourism stakeholders could support the move to streamline banca regulations in Panglao and elsewhere in Bohol. (PIA-Bohol)

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