By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan

Calapan port in Oriental, Mindoro (PPA photo)

MANILA – Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda jr. on Sunday directed the maritime police to help the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) intensify the crackdown against colorum vessels as millions of passengers are expected in seaports during the Holy Week vacation.

Police officers will also assist the PCG in monitoring overloaded passenger vessels.

“Pati na rin ‘yung local police to make sure that ‘yung mga port na maliliit lalo ‘yung mga walang coast guard, bantayan ang paglalayag ng ating mga vessels na lalo sa tingin niyo ay overcrowding (The local police must also make sure that small ports, especially those without coast guards, will be monitored particularly for overcrowding),” he said. “Let us make sure that all these vessels are within the allowed number of passengers and safe.”

During Friday’s inter-agency meeting at Camp Crame in Quezon City, PCG spokesperson Rear Admiral Armand Balilo said they have limited manpower to monitor illegal vessels.

“Ang gagawin namin ay maghihigpit, magiging visible, pero ang importante rito talaga ‘yung cooperation ng public at saka yung tulong na rin ng PNP kung sakaling walang coast guard na maaring magsawata doon sa mga (What we will do is to be strict, be visible, but what is really important here is cooperation of the public and also the help of the PNP in case there is no coast guard to stop) colorum vessels,” Balilo said in the press conference following the meeting.

PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo said all units are on heightened alert from March 25 to April 1.

Fajardo said 52,273 police officers will be deployed to secure travelers and in places of worship, commercial areas and other convergence points.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, Department of Health, Department of Transportation and Land Transportation Office also part of the security contingent.

The Philippine Ports Authority earlier said it is expecting over two million passengers in various ports nationwide. (PNA)