The Port of Odiongan: Through The Years
By Bill F. Gabay
Prior to the creation of the Philippine Ports Authority, the Port of Odiongan was under the supervision and control of the Bureau of Customs.
In 1977, former President Ferdinand E. Marcos signed P.D. 857 that created the PPA, and the port agency took over the operations and management of all government ports in the country including the Port of Odiongan.
The Port of Manila was the biggest management office in the early years of the PPA. It was made up of the South Harbor (overseas), the North Harbor (domestic), the Manila International Container Port (MICP), the Subports of Bataan (Mariveles and Limay), Pasig River, and the Subports of Romblon.
Its first Port Manager and who later on became the General Manager of the PPA was a Romblomanon by the name of Commander Primitivo Solis, Jr. of the Philippine Navy while the first to head the PPA Police as Officer-in-Charge was another Romblomanon, Maj. Victor C. Resos of the Presidential Security Group. Both military officers were born in Looc.
Overseeing the operations in Romblon, Bataan and the Pasig River in those days was the LOSA or the Liaison Office for Subports Affairs which was directly under the Office of the Port Manager.
The Port of Odiongan, formerly known as Port of Poctoy, is located at the center point of the Philippine archipelago based on the Philippine map. Interestingly enough, though, it is not within the jurisdictional area of barangay Poctoy but of another barangay, Barangay Batiano. The two barangays sit next to each other.
On countless occasions, the atmosphere would turn from subdued to fiesta-like every time a passenger boat would arrive at the port especially when coming from Manila. Because, curious onlookers would come and crowd the pier only to watch the new arrivals. And when the ship has departed to its next destination, the people would soon disperse happily as if they have seen something entertaining. Sometimes, this kind of situation would pose some security and crowd control problems to the undermanned local PPA office and to the Philippine Coast Guard detachment. Some of the passenger ships that have regular schedules at the Port of Odiongan before were the M/V Manila City, M/V Misamis Occ., M/V Cebu City, and the M/V Masbate of William Lines, Inc., one of the largest shipping lines in the Philippines decades ago.
Aside from those mentioned, wooden-hulled vessels called “batel” that transported general merchandise and oil products to Tablas were regular customers at the Port of Odiongan, like the M/B Ekber, M/B Paraluman, M/B Odiongan, and the Princess Lina. Also, it served as baseport for several pumpboats that plied the Odiongan – Roxas (Dangay) route notably the M/B Robert.
As passenger and cargo traffic grew steadily in the mid-1980s and early 1990s, other shipping companies would soon venture into the Romblon maritime market such as Viva Lines Inc. and Magsaysay Shipping Lines. The Lucena city-based VLI opened the Odiongan – Batangas route and replaced its aging, noisy, smoke-filled wooden motor boats by acquiring two large combo-type vessels from Japan. These were the M/V Kristoffer and M/V Marian Queen.
The Manila-based MSL, on the other hand, provided Romblon passengers a choice. Instead of making busy North Harbor its base of operations it preferred the more orderly Pier 15 in South Harbor as its home port. Pretty soon, Romblon people saw the entry of a newly-formed independent shipping company that brought in the M/V Salve Juliana, a Ro-Ro vessel, that plied the Romblon-Odiongan-North Harbor (Pier 8) line. As the years went by, other shipping companies would soon follow suit like the Montenegro Shipping Lines, MBRS, Super Shuttle, Starlite, and later on, 2GO.
The coming of the Ro-Ro to Philippine shores, although a most welcome development for the boat-riding public, caught port authorities a little bit off balance. It’s because many municipal ports did not have Ro-Ro ramps and had limited berthing spaces. One of them was the Port of Odiongan. This resulted in unnecessary delays and inconvenience to both the passenger ship and the passengers, and the business community as a whole.
The Port of Odiongan is considered as the fastest rising municipal port in the province of Romblon. It was the first to have a modern passenger terminal complete with airconditioning and an x-ray machine for scanning purposes. Unfortunately, it was not spared of two strong typhoons that passed Southern Tagalog late last year. Consequently, the port’s protective walls were partially damaged and the operational area was severely destroyed that decreased its capability to provide berthing allocations. Repair works are estimated to take about a year according to a port official.