TRUCKLOADS of relief goods are choking the Port of Matnog in Sorsogon, the nearest maritime gateway to the typhoon-devastated provinces of Samar and Leyte, yet port officials say their initial calls for the deployment of more ships to carry the cargoes had gone unheeded.
The Port Management Office (PMO) in Legazpi, which has jurisdiction over Matnog, is appealing to private commercial and non-commercial vessel operators to deploy missionary ships to ply the route from Matnog to Allen in Northern Samar so the relief items can reach the stricken areas.
A ray of hope finally appeared last Friday when the PMO said the Philippine Ports Authority and Maritime Industry Authority were coordinating the deployment of ships to the beleaguered port.
Traffic volume at Matnog port, one of the busiest ports in the Bicol region, had increased due to the surge in relief cargoes that use Matnog as the gateway to other areas.
The PMO said the number of vessels plying the route can no longer accommodate the increasing demand for trips to carry passengers and relief goods across the sea.
In an assessment made by port manager Rosenda Sumagaysay on Nov. 13, she said the situation in Matnog had worsened with the number of vehicles for mercy missions increasing every hour.
She added there was also a marked increase in the number of regular clientele, private vehicles with relief goods and family members all eager to reach Tacloban and neighboring towns laid to waste by super typhoon Yolanda.
Since Nov 11, traffic have doubled and sometimes tripled at the port from the usual 200 vehicles a day to about 400 to 500 loadings a day.
As of Nov 15, vehicles waiting to be loaded at the port already reached about 3 to 6 kilometers, including about 61 roll on-roll off buses loaded with 45 passengers per bus or a total of about 2,700 to 3,000 passengers.
Government authorities have agreed to assemble all vehicles carrying relief items in Camp Ola and will be escorted by military personnel going to Matnog port.
“The port’s marshalling area is choked with vehicles of government and non-government entities intended for mercy missions. The queue of vehicles on the highway is about 3 kilometers long now while the Matnog Terminal Complex (MTC) is full of regular clientele,” Sumagaysay said in her assessment on Nov. 14.
“We need at least four more vessels,” Sumagaysay told PortCalls in a text message.
Somehow her appeal was heard finally. She said the PPA management was now coordinating with the MARINA for the deployment of additional vessels.
- The PPA resumed operations at the ports of Tacloban and Ormoc for commercial and relief missions on Nov. 14. The operations will be limited to self-sustaining vessels or those capable of loading and unloading cargoes, as well as to ro-ro vessels. Among callers at the port after the typhoon were ships from Gothong Southern, Meridien and Roble Shipping. The PPA expects the limited opening of the two ports will greatly facilitate relief missions and decongest traffic at Matnog and Allen.
- The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines said in a tweet that A320 planes and smaller aircraft can now make commercial flights to Tacloban Airport. The CAAP said Catbalogan Airport is open for humanitarian flights. Pasar, Leyte (private airstrip) can also be used to aid relief operations. Airports near Tacloban that can be used are those in Catarman, Calbayog, Guiuan, Ormoc and Borongan, Hilongos and Biliran. It said 12 airports in typhoon-hit areas are now operational.
- The Department of Public Works and Highways said all national roads and bridges affected by Yolanda have been cleared and are now passable. The DPWH said it is looking to recover fully within 3-4 days the right-of-way of national highways. Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson said 36 of the 138 road sections in Eastern Visayas were earlier affected by the devastating typhoon.
- The PPA said relief missions from Bicol to Tacloban may use the Matnog-Allen-Catbalogan-San Juanico route while the Ormoc-Carigara-Palo-Tacloban and Ormoc-Baybay-Abuyog-Dulag-Tolosa-Palo-Tacloban routes are supply routes for those coming from Cebu to Ormoc and Leyte. Relief misions to Borongan and Guiuan, Eastern Samar can take the Catbalogan-Wright-Taft-San Julian-Borongan-Hernani-Guiuan and Catbalogan-Basay-Marabut-Lawaan-Guiuan routes.