Virac, Catanduanes – Representatives from the Philippines Port Authority (PPA) Tabaco faced the Catanduanes Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) to clarify the issue on the collection of the Porter’s Fee and the state of facilities at Tabaco Port.

During the 23rd SP Regular Session, Provincial Board Member (PBM) Josevan A. Balidoy brought up the issue of collecting the “Porter’s Fee” at Tabaco Port through a privileged speech. PBM Balidoy questioned where the P56.00 paid by passengers seeking assistance from porters was going, given that only P5.00 was allocated for the porters, leaving a significant question about the remaining P51.00. Additionally, the lack of facilities, particularly broken chairs, windows, and comfort rooms, was also raised by the board.

To address these concerns, the council decided to task PBMs Balidoy and Dean Roberto Vergara to investigate the issue. In response, the officials promptly took action and gathered evidence by taking photographs on June 9, 2023.

Subsequently, on June 15, 2023, the board members met with officials from PPA Tabaco Port to hear their explanation about the issue. However, the visit did not fully convince the officials, leading them to invite PPA officials to appear before the SP for further questioning.

As a result, representatives from PPA Tabaco attended the 25th Regular Session of the SP to shed light on the issues and address the concerns raised by the board members.

During their explanation, Ms. Myra C. Bolota, Terminal Head of PPA Port Tabaco, clarified that the ‘Terminal Fee’ is distinct from the ‘Porter’s Fee.’ The collection of P56.00 as the Porter’s Fee is based on their office’s legal policy and has undergone a public hearing process. Out of this fee, P5.00 goes to the porter, while the remaining P51.00 goes to PPA. Regarding questions about the damaged facilities since Typhoon Tisoy, Balota explained that the terminal at Tabaco port is currently undergoing renovations funded by PPA.

Dennis M. Popatco and John S. Delos Santos of PPA-PMO Bicol assured the SP members that the service provider is responsible for managing the terminal, which they monitor through a weekly checklist submitted to them.

Despite these explanations, the SP members remained unconvinced due to complaints from travelers, especially about the damaged facilities and perceived unjust collection of fees. PBM Dean Roberto Vergara condemned the continued excuses for not resolving the ‘minor repairs’ inside the facility, such as the ‘comfort room.’ PBM Dr. Santos Zafe requested the weekly checklist to be eased, as the expected service is still not being provided.

Ultimately, the SP members agreed to send a resolution directly to PPA General Manager Jay Daniel R. Santiago of the Port Management Office in Bicol, urging the suspension of the P30.00 Terminal Fee collection until the Tabaco Port terminal building is fully rehabilitated. This suggestion was put forth by PBM Edwin Tanael and was supported by PBMs Rafael Zuniega and Balidoy.

Moreover, PBM Joselito Alberto proposed a resolution to ensure adequate convenience for travelers by directing PPA Tabaco City to provide appropriate facilities for ticket booths to all passenger shipping liners passing through the Catanduanes route. The aim is to address the current lack of proper facilities for passengers queuing at the ticket booths, which affects the rights of elderly, women, children, and sick passengers, as well as Catanduanes’ tourism industry.

PBM J. Alberto also submitted a resolution requesting the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Tabaco and the Philippine Ports Authority to allow PCG to establish an office within the Tabaco City Port. This resolution aims to streamline services and reduce the inconvenience faced by travelers and tourists who need permits to board ferries to Catanduanes. Having a PCG office within the port area would ensure better public service. (BP Newsteam/FB/Kap JP)