• Bill F. Gabay

The Port of Odiongan: Through The Years

By Bill F. Gabay

In this file photo taken sometime in the late 1980s, a passenger boat is docked at the old Port of Poctoy, now called the Port of Odiongan. The port has undergone some transformations since the PPA took over its management in 1977 when Pres. Ferdinand E. Marcos issued P.D. 857.

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.

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