To minimize any problem that may crop up and in anticipation of the high demand for wristbands that were required of tourists going to Managaha Island, the Division of Fish and Wildlife set up camp by the gate of the transient dock at the Smiling Cove Marina last Friday, as the $3-per-passenger loading fee took effect.
Even before the tourists started arriving, DFW director Manny M. Pangelinan, who was at the dock, had to address concerns of boat operators wanting to avail of wristbands, but who have not paid the fee for the transient dock commercial use permit—even after a 10-day grace period the government had set for boat operators to pay the fee.
An employee of Asia Marine Sports, who identified himself as Salim, said they had to stop operation for the day.
“[If] we don’t pay the government, then we cannot load, I understand,” Salim said. “We need to pay, after that we can do operation. The government [has] rules now.”
The money collected will be used for the maintenance and operation of the transient dock.
At around 8am, tourists started arriving in droves, highlighting issues in the new system that have to be addressed, primarily the need for a waiting area for tourists as they wait for their boat to dock.
Also, the dock space was too small, given the number of passengers coming in.
“We do it one at a time for safety purposes,” Pangelinan said in explaining the passenger loading process. “We do not want to crowd [the dock] as accidents can happen. We want to make sure that the flow goes slow, but in a progressive way.”
The transient dock within the Smiling Cove Marina is now being used to load and unload passengers going to and from Managaha, instead of the Outer Cove Marina, which was closed last Sept. 30 for being unsafe for public use. Each passenger is charged $3; the boat operator issues a wristband to the passenger who has already paid the fee. DFW then collects the wristbands when they get off at the Smiling Cove Marina.
On the first day last Friday, Pangelinan reports that DFW collected 479 wristbands.
Earlier, Pangelinan said he expects that not all boat operators would comply with the new regulation, and that the DFW will assess and find solutions for things that could go wrong.
Other issues raised include some operators not being able to use the dock because of the size of their boats, and people raising concerns that the wristbands, once discarded, would end up as just another trash in the ocean.
For now, as the DFW fine-tunes the new system, Pangelinan and his team would be standing guard by the gates of the Smiling Cove to address immediate concerns, and to know and assess all the issues being raised as the new system is being implemented.
“Each day should become much better, much smoother,” Pangelinan said. “People always resist change. [But], as they acclimate to the changes, those complaints will start phasing out. If we want to improve life and quality, we have to make some changes.”