Agaton paralyzes Surigao ports, PPA orders anchorage of vessels

By Eugenio Lira Jr.

PORT OF SURIGAO CITY, Jan. 18 (PIA) – Port authorities has ordered the immediate anchorage of vessels to safer locations on Saturday as Tropical Depression Agaton has continued to paralyze three major ports of Surigao del Norte for two consecutive days which caused the indefinite cancellations of voyages of all types of sea-going vessels and sea crafts.

Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) Port Manager Isidro Butaslac, Jr. said he ordered the stoppage of port operations in the said three ports which started at about 12:00 noon on Friday, January 17 as a result of a directive from the Philippine Coast Guard Station in Surigao City for the indefinite cancellation of sea travels in the entire province of Surigao del Norte after PAGASA earlier hoisted Storm Signal No. 1 in the area.

“As a consequence of the temporary halt in our port operations, we have more than 3,000 tonnage of cargoes stranded in our ports, with Lipata accounting for 2,000 tonnage and Surigao Baseport for more than 1,000 tonnage. We also have 573 passengers stranded in the ports of Lipata and Surigao City, while Dapa Port in Siargao Island has no stranded passengers as prospective passengers choose to return home while some stayed at lodging houses,” Butaslac said.

He said that as 10:00 a.m. of January 18 he ordered the transfer of vessels docked at the ports of Surigao, Lipata and Dapa for anchorage to safer grounds particularly on several coves located in Siargao Island and the town of Socorro to prevent any damage to port facilities when TD Agaton would make a landfall in Caraga Region in the afternoon as forecasted by PAGASA.

“Of the 573 passengers, 530 are stranded at Lipata Port while 43 stayed inside Surigao Baseport. Out of these numbers, we have 219 adult males, 214 adult females, 53 minors (boys) and 44 minors (girls) at Lipata Port, while we have 18 adult males, 21 adult females, 2 minors (boys) and 2 minors (girls) at Surigao Baseport,” Butaslac clarified.

PP/Superintendent Froilan Caturla, port police station commander, disclosed that 55 vehicles bound for Leyte are stranded at Barangay Lipata which include 26 vehicles stuck inside the port while 29 vehicles are queuing up outside.

“Port operations in Lipata and Surigao ports are practically nil. In Lipata, out of 55 stranded vehicles, 10 are public utility buses with 28 cargo trucks and 4 cargo trailers. We are expecting for more arrival of passengers and vehicles at Lipata in the next 24 hours. While this may aggravate the present situation at Lipata port, we have already instituted measures to remedy the same,” Caturla stressed.

He said the management of the PPA had already started its ‘feeding activity’ on stranded passengers yesterday and the same is going on until the lifting of Storm Signal No. 1 or until Coast Guard authorities would declare the resumption of sea trips for all vessels and sea crafts at the ports of Surigao City, Lipata and Dapa.

The port police chief said his command has implemented a heightened security alert and has put up ‘Help Desks’ on a ‘24/7’ coverage to ensure maximum security and safety of stranded passengers and provide them assistance in case of any eventualities.

Caturla said that Surigao Baseport is a conventional port with ‘Roll On and Roll Off’ (RORO) facilities, while Lipata Port and Dapa Port are RORO-type port and conventional port, respectively.  (PPA/PIA-Caraga)