"..a bardy view!"

Ferries in the Philippines

With over 7000 islands in the Philippines archipelago, the principle method of travel is by ferry. This nation has the highest number of ferry disasters than anywhere else in the world.

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office says: You should be aware that maritime rescue services in the Philippines might not be as comprehensive as they might be in the UK.

That's diplomatic speak for "Crap". But don't hold too much sway on the words. The CIA Country Reports indicate that "Drivers in the Philippines are less disciplined than elsewhere". In other words – they are crap!

Having driven in the Philippines both as driver and passenger, and sailed on many ferries, I have several observations.

Once upon a time I would have agreed with the CIA reports. But that was when I was a short term visitor. My experience tells me that Filipinos are the most considerate and amiable drivers anywhere.

It's very simple. If you do not have respect and consideration for your fellow road users you won't travel very far. Driving in the Philippines requires skills not normally required on the average British, American or European roads. For one thing there are few pavements for the pedestrian. The non driving public share the road equally.

Road rage is rare. Most drivers are very patient. They always allow passage through. Horns honk alot, but that is crucial and a second language.

The ubiquitous hooter is the drivers voice. In Britain drivers tend to use the horn as an emergency, or to express aggressive feelings. "The lights on green – wake up!" for example.

In the Philippines, a variety of vehicles will be vying for space, whether they are jeepneys, tricycles, jalopies, buses, cars, horse and caribou.

Discipline may be lacking, but respect is paramount. It is this respect for the fellow road user which keeps the wheels in motion. Add to that the pedestrians who know that they will be considered, and a system exists based purely on man's ability of care and consideration.

It may not be the greatest road safety system in the world, but it works.

Contrast that to London. The Mayor has monitored systems abroad and is attempting to implement roads where people and cars can share the same space with each other. Where the driver can be aware of the pedestrian, and commons sense can prevail.

This is a major shift. Without the traffic lights, roundabouts, and myriad of sign posts and instructions, perhaps basic intelligence will allow the traffic to flow.

Before I talk about ferries in the Philippines, consider the USA. A nation built on the car. Outside of the cities, pedestrians are as rare as a New York Hot Dog seller in the Loire Valley.

So why is the Philippines ferry safety record so bad? The most recent involved an incident from Batangas port across the Verde Strait. A journey I have personally undertaken and one of the most remarkable. Batangas port to Mindoro is a joy. Dolphins will accompany the boat on the journey.

Its a popular trip for tourists, especially divers to get to Puerto Galera, though why anyone would want to suffer the journey upon landing at Calapan to get there is beyond comprehension. It's a tough trip and the roads are diabolical.

The answer is simple. With a population almost reaching 100 million, where people are seeking work in the Industrial and commercial nirvanas like Manila, they all want to return home for Christmas and other major festivities. The ferries get overloaded. Safety takes a back seat. The weather is unpredictable.

The captain can exercise his authority, but doesn't. The ferry gets swamped and the crew are oblivious to the consequences.

The Philippines government can moan and groan, but in the final analysis, it is they who must bear the brunt of their global reputation and they are not doing enough.


December 28, 2009 - Posted by | The Philippines | , , , , , , , , ,

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