By Ali G. Macabalang
“The long lines (queues) of trucks waiting for ferry boats to cross the San Bernardino Strait from Luzon to Visayas and Mindanao and back are now gone,” the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) proudly announced Saturday, crediting the instant action of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).
MinDA Chair Manny Piñol heralded the “good news” in his Facebook page, through which he disclosed Wednesday a graft-prone “bottleneck” posed by an inadequate number of ferry boats plying the Matnog, Sorsogon-Allen, Samar strait.
The Philippine Muslim Today online news carried a story derived from written and video feedback which Sec. Piñol made about the problem he witnessed while passing through the route Tuesday from Manila towards here.
In his feedback, Piñol called on his “friend” DOTC Secretary Arthur Tugade to address the “bottleneck” with urgency, describing the situation as conducive to “corruption” like bribe-giving among operators of several trucks lined up on both sides of the road waiting for “a day or two” to pass through.
“On Tuesday, while on my way back to Mindanao from a series of engagements in Metro Manila, I captured on video long lines of trucks waiting to be loaded by the few ferry boats sailing the route,” he said.
Many of the trucks carried live chicken and other livestock alongside perishable products that would likely get spoiled in long travel delays, he said, hinting that adverse consequences such as bribe-giving would add up to the products’ cost and be passed on to consumers.
“Three days after I called on Secretary Art Tugade… truckers have reported today that additional vessels have been deployed. I received information that more vessels are now plying the route and travel is faster,” he said Saturday.
“Trucker friends told me that this had been going on for months and that some unscrupulous port officials in cahoots with fixers were making a lot of money,” Piñol added.
He said his informants disclosed that the “ongoing rate” of ferry service fee ranged from P5,000 to P8,000 per truck.
He thanked Secretary Tugade “for acting on the problem immediately.”
The MinDA chairman’s two posts, especially the last one, drew plaudits from various sectors that went viral in social media networks including Facebook.
Some reactors have cited Sec. Pinol’s policy of regular field trips “unearthing realities” in the countryside as well as his “continuing reportage of empirical findings.” AGM