Rep. Frasco seeks House inquiry
CEBU, Philippines — Cebu Fifth District Representative Vincent “Duke” Frasco seeks to launch a congressional inquiry to determine the legality of the P20 lounge fee collected by Sands Gateway Mall in Danao City from Camotes-bound passengers.
In a statement, Frasco said he received numerous complaints from residents of the Camotes group of islands frequently using the Danao port to go to work in the mainland areas.
Frasco filed a resolution on September 4, asking the Lower House to direct its Committee on Transportation to investigate the lounge fees collected from ship passengers who are made to go to the mall’s private waiting lounge located beside the Danao port.
The passengers are made to pay the P20 lounge fee on top of the P5 terminal fee being collected by the Cebu Port Authority.
“Camotes Island residents work hard to provide for their families, but part of their earnings are taken by Sands. Before the operation of the private mall, they did not have to pay the P20 fee,” Frasco said.
Aside from requesting an inquiry by the Committee on Transportation, Frasco also requested the House of Representatives to urge the Department of Transportation and the CPA “to immediately prohibit” the Sands Gateway Mall from further collecting lounge fees from boat passengers who are unwilling to avail of and pay for the mall’s facility.
He also requested Congress to urge the two agencies to open the public terminal for the passengers’ use.
As a former commissioner of the CPA, Frasco said he does not remember any agreement being discussed or signed for the purpose of closing off the public terminal and directing passengers to the private mall, during his stint at the CPA.
Frasco said that the collection of the said amount is “unjustly adding financial burden and unduly hampering passengers’ constitutional right to travel.”
In the resolution that he filed, Frasco cited Section 6, Article III of the Constitution which states that the right to travel “shall not be impaired except in the interest of national security, public safety, or public health.”
Frasco said that the Port of Danao City is a public commercial port owned and operated by the CPA, and currently has a passenger terminal that can seat 150 passengers and is in good working condition.
The Sands Gateway Mall Danao is a private establishment owned and operated by Sands Danao Realty and Development Corp.
Frasco said when Sands Gateway Mall was opened to the public, the public passenger terminal was closed to the public and the passengers were required to enter its premises.
“Passengers do not see the necessity or benefit of using the waiting lounge of Sands Gateway, as there was a 150-seater passenger terminal available at the Port of Danao that they could use without incurring additional and unnecessary travel cost,” he stated in the resolution.
Frasco added that there is no basis under the law to mandate the passengers to pay lounge fees to Sands Gateway, a private corporation, to gain access to the Port of Danao City, a public port.
Frasco is chairman of the House Committee on Visayas Development and is also vice chairman of the Committee on Appropriations.
In an earlier interview, Honey Baylon Bregente, general manager of Sands Gateway Mall, said that the lounge fee of P20 is for the safety, comfort, and convenience of the riding public, wherein part of the amenities of the arcade is a traveler’s lounge where the shipping lines servicing the Danao-Camotes route operate their respective ticketing counters.
Bregente had said that as rental by the shipping line, a P20 fee is collected which is used for the security personnel and the upkeep of the air-conditioned lounge and comfort rooms.
Bregente had said that the existing terminal can no longer accommodate the volume of passengers and that passengers were already spilling over into the port driveway and the national road. — BRP (FREEMAN)