Are Life Jackets Crumpling Lawyers’ Suits on Iloilo-Guimaras Pump Boats?

Are life jackets crumpling lawyer’s suits on the Iloilo-Guimaras pump boats? Did a court in Guimaras prohibit the wearing of life jackets in motorized banca boats to help the lawyers prevent this? With the recent tragic loss of nine lives on the Tawash, the Coast Guard is cracking down. At least for now. Crumpled clothes or not. 


According to the Panay News,  Iloilo station commander of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Lieutenant Jomark Angue, said Guimaras did pass this prohibition.

“It’s like you are depriving yourself of safety,” Angue said.

The ordinance was contrary to the national policy on the mandatory wearing of life jackets being enforced by the Maritime Industry Authority, he stressed.

Angue stated that a group of lawyers sought an injunction against the mandatory wearing of life jackets from the court.

Lawyers riding the pump boats complained that the life jackets were crumpling their neatly pressed clothes.

“Lifejacket is a protection. Even if you are a good swimmer, without a lifejacket you may find yourself in trouble if something bad happens to the motorboat,” Angue said.

He urged motorboat passengers to use life jackets.

In a separate interview, PCG regional director Leopoldo Laroya said station commanders were instructed to advise motorboat associations in Guimaras to strictly implement the policy on life jackets.

“Boats will not be allowed to sail if the passengers do not comply with it,” he said.

And so far, from all reports I’ve been getting, the above statement from the regional director is true.

I’ve also been told that log manifests are returned to passengers if they omit their age. Some folks do not want to reveal their  age on the log.

No one checks personal ID’s against the ages on the manifest so I doubt that those individuals not wanting to admit their real age could have fudged on the actual log.

I’ve also been notified that a group of youngsters recently refused to wear their life jackets and the boat did not leave the wharf until they finally put them on. Ahhh, youth, always rebelling.
Pump Boat Owner Larry Inspecting our Loaded Jeepney on Jordan Wharf in Guimaras

In memory of my amigo,  Larry Abilla, one of the crew members that died in the tragedy

The Inquirer. Net  reported that motor bancas fitted with outriggers are the main form of transportation between Guimaras Island and Iloilo City. From 14,000 to 20,000 passengers—mostly students, workers, shoppers and traders—travel to and from Guimaras daily.

Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog said the Coast Guard erred in allowing the motorboat to travel.

“Even if Iloilo was not under any storm signal, big waves and strong winds were imminent,” Mabilog said.

Three residents of Iloilo City were among the survivors.

Coast Guard officials earlier said the motorboat was allowed to travel based on weather conditions and because Iloilo and Guimaras were not under any storm signal.

The boat was a mile from Iloilo on its way to the Jordan port in Guimaras when it was suddenly hit by a squall, or a sudden and forceful gust of wind.

The squall lifted the boat and forced it to capsize, according to Coast Guard officials, citing accounts of crew members and survivors.

Several of the passengers were not wearing life jackets when the accident happened, according to the Coast Guard.

The Guimaras provincial government shouldered the hospital expenses of the victims and funeral costs of the fatalities. It also granted financial assistance amounting to P25,000 for the families of the fatalities and P5,000 to survivors.

But, Guimaras Governor Samuel Gumarin is suggesting that the wearing of life jackets aboard motorboats should not be made mandatory.

Guimaras Governor Samuel Gumarin“Pero kon signal no. 1, indi kinanglan nga isuksok mo (there is no need to put on a) lifejacket,” said Gumarin.

According to a recent article in the Panay News, Governor Gumarin said that while life jackets can save lives, they can kill, also. The governor was reacting to the Philippine Coast Guard’s (PCG) complaint that a court in Guimaras issued an injunction against the mandatory use of life jackets on board the motorboats.

According to Gumarin, three of the nine persons who died when Guimaras-bound MB Tawash capsized last month in the Iloilo Strait were wearing lifejackets.

“The three were trapped under the capsized boat because their lifejackets hit a snag (nakasangit),” said Gumarin.pump boat outside Ortiz Wharf in Iloilo

As noted earlier in this post, PCG-Iloilo Station commander Lieutenant Jomark Angue said the court order was depriving motorboat passengers of safety.

Gumarin suggested that the wearing of life vests be made mandatory only during storm signals No. 2 and above.  Motorboat passengers may only hold their life jackets, he said.

Gumarin recalled that on the day MB Tawash capsized, Iloilo City and Guimaras were not placed under any storm signal by the state weather bureau. A gale warning was issued but it was made late.

Strong winds and big waves buffeted MB Tawash until it capsized less than two kilometers after leaving the Iloilo City wharf.

Gumarin said a marine inquiry should clarify what happened.

“Marina and the Coast Guard may be held accountable,” said Gumarin.

He also wondered what protocol does the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration follow in issuing weather advisories.

“How do the Coast Guard and Marina get weather advisories and in turn make the necessary steps to protect sea travelers,” he asked.

I thought I had heard the last of this story but upon reading today’s online edition of the Panay News,  I found it necessary to update it.

The people of Guimaras have no problem with the mandatory wearing of lifejackets

So says Station Commander Angue. Lieutenant Angue states that only Guimaras provincial officials appear to be against this national maritime policy.

Angue seeks to have a meeting with Guimaras officials specifically with the members of the group that passed the injunction in February 2010 (not 2012 as previously reported. That date is in line with what I previously had observed. We moved to Guimaras in July 2009 and the wearing of life jackets on the pump boats was mandatory. But I noticed that in the following year, the regulation was never enforced. Now I know why.)

“Our intention is to enlighten everybody,” said Angue.

Angue said motorboat passengers from Guimaras were “happy” wearing lifejackets because these made them feel more secure.

In Feb. 26, 2010 the Regional Trial Court, Branch 24 in Guimaras issued an injunction against the mandatory wearing of life jackets. The petitioner was the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the province of Guimaras.

From what PCG-Iloilo gathered, lawyers and functionaries from Guimaras complained that the life jackets were crumpling their neatly-pressed clothes.

We’re heading to Iloilo tomorrow, the first time in weeks. Rest assured, we will be wearing our life jackets despite what any group of lawyers in Guimaras might think. And to be honest, I really don’t care if my clothes get wrinkled.

30 comments

    1. Here’s one of my favorite lawyer jokes, Ron: ” Q: What’s the difference between a dead skunk in the road and a dead lawyer in the road? A: There are skid marks in front of the skunk.

  1. I am concerned that if wearing a life jacket and the boat capsizes and you are under the boat and the life jacket prevents you from diving deeper into the water to clear your self from the boat , ie you may have to go down before you can come up , The life jacket will prevent you from going down .

    1. That’s a point the Guimaras Governor brought up, John. It is my understanding that some people were trapped underneath the boat’s tarps. We are going on the boat today, as I’ve done hundreds of times before in the past six years, and pray for good weather. Take care.

    2. My DevilDog personality just REALLY came out, but I will try to be nice.

      Don’t wear a life jacket because there is a possibility that you might get caught under the boat and the life jacket will prevent you from diving deeper to get away from the boat? Serious! Serious????

      That is like saying DO NOT wear seat belts because occasionally someone is trapped in a car because of the seat belt and dies. SEAT BELTS SAVE LIVES!!! Period.

      Life jackets SAVE LIVES….Period!!!!! The chances of you dying because of being trapped under a boat because of a life jacket is so small compared to DYING because you were NOT wearing a life jacket.

      And by the way, it is NOT hard to take a life jacket off! My goodness! It takes 5 seconds or less to take off life jackets if you want to. Come on now!!!!

      This whole situation is so frustrating for me. People died because of irresponsible behavior! People died because it was too important to get home during bad weather than take five minutes and think about what could happen. This stuff has happened far too many times in the Philippines!

      People! Please…wear a life jacket when you get on these boats! Even good, really good, swimmers can really struggle in rough water. Wear a life jacket! God.

      As far as these lawyers not wanting to wear a life jacket because it wrinkles their suits. Nothing can really be said about that type of EXTREME STUPIDITY.

      As much as I love the Philippines…sometimes the saying “Only in the Philippines” doesn’t come close to describing what takes place there on a regular basis.

      Please wear life jackets on those boats!!!

      1. I agree with you, Todd. Think of how many lives could have been saved if everyone was wearing a life jacket the afternoon the Tawash capsized? And all because a group of lawmakers in Guimaras don’t want to get their clothes wrinkled? It’s beyond my comprehension.

  2. Hi Dave. I’ve just got no time for lawyers I don’t mind a honest thief trying to rip me off
    But some jack arse in a suit no way, there’s one law for them and they treat you like you
    Were born yesterday, if I was traveling in one of those boats I would wear a life jacket
    To hell with my clothes, Derek in pasig.

    1. I will be wearing my life jacket today, Derek. Haven’t been on the boat for weeks but despite the court injunction from the regional court in Guimaras, the Coast Guard is enforcing the National Maritime Law at least for the time being.

      1. Well Dave, I am happy you wore your life jacket…at least you said you would.

        I guess I completely do NOT understand the reluctance people have to wear life jackets! They save lives. Rarely do they EVER cause someone to die! People that say stuff like that are just amazingly ignorant. These same people probably don’t want to wear a seat belt.

        I don’t need to read an article about you, the wife, or ANY filipino dying in a boating accident when they could have survived if they wore a life jacket. A good life jacket can do wonders for even people that swim like rocks.

        1. I will always wear mine, Todd. I don’t care if six people out of the 40-odd passengers on the boat took their life jackets off Friday morning (by the way,it was quite windy and the waves were choppy.) Was I warm because I wore it? Yes, but it’s better than drowning.

  3. Dave, I think it might be a good idea to have some other type of boat- ferries between Guimaras and ILOILO. Something that was more stable in bad weather. Pump boats are great too. but the other ones could be used on windy days. I guess cost of the ticket would be an issue though. – Nick in Vancouver

    1. It’s a cost issue, Nick. In the Philippines, it’s never a “safety first” issue. It all boils down to the almighty peso.

      But on the route we ply, from Jordan Wharf to Iloilo, we have the larger of the motorized banca boats that operate on our island. Passengers going from Buena Vista Wharf in Guimaras to Iloilo have a much smaller boat in which you have to “walk the plank” to enter the vessel. I’ve only been on those boats a couple of times. I hate them.

  4. Dave,
    More lives are saved with lifejackets than lost. Hoping for good weather and calm seas next Tuesday. I know will be nervous if there isn’t.

    1. I completely agree, Papa Duck. We had some windy conditions on our boat trip yesterday. Everyone put on life jackets before we took off. After the boat left, about a half-dozen passengers took their jackets off. Not me.

      On another note, we were able to purchase most of our groceries for the Thanksgiving Day feast. We will have our fresh turkeys delivered on Tuesday. However, I was unable to obtain one of our Thanksgiving Day staples: a can of cranberry sauce, the jellied kind in a can. Have a safe trip.

    2. PapaDuck, nice to see some common sense spoken! Life jackets by far save more lives than cost lives! My goodness. It’s not even close.

      As I said in an earlier comment, you can EASILY take off a life jacket if you have to!!!! It is not close to be hard to do.

      But it is NOT easy to fight for your life because of rough weather or because you cannot swim and don’t have a life jacket!

      1. I wore my jacket the other day, Todd, as did my asawa. I was quaffing a pint with an expat on Friday night and told him what our Governor had said. He remarked that the accident was just a freak event that would probably never happen again. Regardless of that, I said, I will be always wearing mine from now on and not taking any chances.

  5. Dave,
    When we go to S&R we will look for some cranberry sauce. We are also bringing if it’s alright with you and Melinda 3 boxes of Stove Top Stuffing if you don’t already have some. Nice to have stuffing, even if its only Stove Top on Thanksgiving.

    1. Thanks, Papa Duck. The cranberry sauce was always a tradition for us. We don’t have any stuffing so your Stove Top Stuffing will make a great addition.

      The guest list has grown for the big feast. Two turkeys will be prepared. We’ve invited some other Americans from the island. Should be a great time.

  6. Mandatory wearing of life jacket onboard open-deck motorbanca is a national policy and is an internationally accepted standard to ensure safety of the passengers. It is only in Guimaras-Iloilo motorbanca route that such policy is being opposed by no less than the public officials and as such, they have convinced the court to issue a preliminary injunction ordering us not to impose the mandatory wearing of life jacket.
    The Coast Guard is in a dilemma because following this court orders means endangering the lives of the public availing this motorbanca for transportation. We can be held in contempt or be charge of administrative case if we disregard the court order.
    At the moment, we are temporarily following the court order while the issue is being resolved in court but we pity the passengers availing this sea route for they are not ensured of their safety. Fortunately, majority of the passengers are still wearing the life jackets and are listening to our “request” for them to wear it (as we cannot do anything more than a request because we were ordered not to impose the mandatory wearing of life jacket). For those who insist not to wear it, sorry we can do nothing to compel you, i hope the court order can function as life jacket when you need it.
    Nevertheless, we are still here to serve the public, we will not stop in finding ways to keep you safe

    1. Sir, first of all, I applaud you for a job well done and I appreciate your efforts.

      Readers, Mr. Angue is the Iloilo station commander of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Lieutenant Jomark Angue, mentioned in this post.

      You, sir, are certainly more qualified than anyone, including a group of lawyers in Guimaras, where I reside, to comment on this situation.

      My Filipina wife and I left Jordan port this past Monday for a trip to Iloilo. Unfortunately our boat operator did not require any passengers to wear their life jackets. My wife and I had ours. Most passengers did not wear any. We didn’t see any Coast Guard at the wharf that morning.

      On the return trip from Ortiz Wharf in Iloilo, a Coast Guard officer watched as the passengers boarded a vessel. Everyone wore their life jackets.

      I, for the life of me, cannot understand why the court in Guimaras thinks they can issue an injunction which supersedes national and international rules and regulations. Why are they, in my opinion, throwing common sense out of the window (or in this case, the pump boat?) It’s beyond my mere mortal comprehension.

      I sincerely thank you for your comment and for clarifying this issue for us. Again, as a resident of Guimaras who uses the Guimaras to Iloilo route several times a month, I sincerely thank you.

      1. Thanks, Ron, couldn’t find it this past Monday, but we had a guest who brought us two cans for Thanksgiving. I’ll have to check out the Atrium again. I’m assuming you mean the Iloilo Supermarket there?

    1. Thanks for that story, Ron. Been busy with Thanksgiving and missed it. The Iloilo station commander of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Lieutenant Jomark Angue, was kind enough to offer his insight into the issue.

  7. What a joke the wearing of life jackets, for one, once the boat left the dock the life jackets were taken off by EVERYONE. Second, the life jackets were in various forms of disrepair and would be more of a hindrance rather then life saving. And lastly, the coast guard knew this but kept the folly up for two months, while the people laughed at them.

    If people must wear life jackets, then instructions each time before the boat leaves must be given and everyone checked to see if they have it fitted properly. Of course the people won’t allow this kind of time wasting tomfoolery, so that leaves another option. Provide a life vest at each seating station and only require the wearing of them when the weather is at a stage that a squall could happen.

    I have other issues with the Coast Guard and the foolishness and utter incompetence of the organization. It’s not just the coast guards incompetence, it is the over all incompetence of just about every aspect of governance in the country. The Philippines will never amount to much of anything till this kind of stuff comes to an end. There is smart governing, for the people, and stupid governing, the coast guard is a prime example of stupidness running amuk.

    1. Well, Jim, it is true that most passengers take off their life jackets once the boat leaves the dock. And, yes, the majority of the vests are ill-fitting, dirty and outdated.

      Of course, the boat operators will never stand for any more delays that they’re already experiencing by making sure their manifests are correct. Delays mean less runs made that day and thus, less money. Safety is not the primary motivator here, as you know. The peso is.

Leave a Reply