Speaker Lord Allan Velasco wants a review of an eight-year-old policy suspending maritime travel in areas placed under public storm warning signal no. 1, or 36 hours before a weather disturbance occurs.
The lawmaker from Marinduque said the policy as laid down in a memorandum circular issued by the Philippine Coast Guard in 2013 proved counterproductive and detrimental to the country’s shipping and maritime industry, and the general public.
“The PCG circular has resulted in stressful delays, unforeseen cancellations, decreased economic productivity and stalled shipping services,” he said.
He took part in a recent virtual meeting with officials of PCG; Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, and Maritime Industry Authority that discussed Memorandum Circular No. 02-13 prescribing the “Guidelines on Movement of Vessels During Heavy Weather,” effectively prohibiting any type of boat, ship or sea vessel from operating and sailing in the point of origin, the intended route, and the point of destination once signal no. 1 is hoisted.
Signal no. 1 is put in effect when wind speeds ranging from 30 to 60 kilometers per hour is expected to take place in a given locality within a lead time of 36 hours, although the corresponding weather conditions may not yet be prevailing over that particular area.
The 36-hour lead time was originally intended for inland storm preparations involving residences, farms and land trips.
The House Speaker wants the existing guidelines on sea travel during typhoons reviewed and replaced by a “maritime legal policy that is adoptive, forward thinking and conducive to economic stability.”
Advanced gale warning advisories and other maritime-based forecasting technologies and mechanisms are now available, and must be considered and maximized in crafting adaptive and economically sustainable guidelines on sea travel, without sacrificing the safety and protection of those in the maritime industry, he said.
He urged authorities to look into the possibility of having a shorter lead time for storm signals and movement of vessels during bad weather conditions.
The current 36-hour lead time for signal no. 1, during which no vessel is allowed to travel, is “quite long” and leads to serious port congestion and derailment of economic activities, he noted.
“We need to find a way to be able to adjust how we determine storm warning signals and protocols in allowing vessels to travel by sea without sacrificing the safety of passengers and seafarers,” he said.
The House leader also described the 36-hour lead time as “inefficient” since it causes people and goods stranded in ports for a few days even if the weather is calm or there is still enough time for them to travel safely.
He said such incident is mostly the case for people living in islands, like in his home province of Marinduque, where inter-island trips can be completed in only an hour or two.
“I take my province as an example. We are used to a scenario where every time Pagasa declares signal no. 1 in Quezon province, vehicles and Marinduqueños returning home are stuck in seaport,” he said.
“This doesn’t happen only in Marinduque. This also happens in many parts of the country,” he added.