A COURT in Iloilo City has struck down the government’s policy prohibiting motorboats plying the Iloilo City–Guimaras route from using tarpaulin or canvass covers to protect passengers from the sun. “The Court believes that the implementation of the questioned memorandum is causing and continue to cause irreparable injury to the plaintiffs and the passengers plying the Iloilo–Guimaras Strait, day in and day out,” Judge Ma. Theresa E. Gaspar said in a decision dated Nov. 4. The memorandum, implemented by the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), contains stricter protocols on motor bancas following the Iloilo Strait tragedy last August 3, which claimed 31 lives. The protocols are: all tarpaulins/canvass should either be rolled-up or removed; passengers to be carried only up to 75% of the boat’s authorized capacity; operations are limited only to fair weather conditions; and trips are from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. The court decision only prohibited the condition on tarpaulins. The ruling stems from a civil case against MARINA and PCG filed by Guimaras residents through lawyer Vicente De Asis and company. MARINA Regional Director Jose Venancio A. Vero, Jr. said they will abide by the court ruling, but will still implement the tarpaulin and canvass specifications issued by the MARINA central office, which include a 1.8-meter height and span at 50% of the boat’s length. Mr. Vero also said they will organize a consultation meeting with motor banca operators in Guimaras to discuss the court order. — Emme Rose S. Santiagudo
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