WITH the festive season now here and Christmas is going to be celebrated this weekend, more and more people are now traveling back to their provinces to spend the last two weeks of this month to celebrate Christmas and New Year in their villages.
Western Province is no exception.
Since last week the Western Provincial capital is packed and flooded with people arriving from Honiara by passenger vessels.
Not only that but Gizo is also packed with those from the nearby islands coming in to sell their market produce and do their final shopping.
A stroll through Gizo town yesterday saw hundreds of people and news faces moving around the township.
Monday is usually a busy time in Gizo as people arrive by boat from Honiara.
Yesterday, was even busier with outboard motors lining up at the Gizo shorefront.
OBM is the main transport for the people in the province
Speaking to a boat driver that arrived from Vella La Vella yesterday in Gizo, Donnie Hunter said this week is very busy for all the OBM skippers because they are being engaged to transport passengers from Gizo to the various islands around Gizo.
He said there are OBMs coming in from Vella, Ranogga, Simbo, Kolombangara with some other neighbouring islands such as Choiseul and New Georgia.
Mr. Hunter said some of the OBM transport boats already made more than two trips to drop off passengers at the nearby islands.
He said with the Christmas celebration this week, more people are arriving in Gizo in boatloads to conduct their final shopping.
Since Monday, about 7 shipping passenger vessels plus cargo boats have arrived in Gizo to drop off passengers and cargoes.
More some have boarded the passenger vessels bound for Honiara.
Along with the increasing number of people arriving in Gizo, Mr. Hunter said the price of goods at the shops is also rising.
He said the notable increase is with the price of chicken wings.
Throughout the year the price usually stands between $70 t0 $80.
But since the start of this month, the price had increased to around $100 for a 2kg chicken packet.
Most of the shops were packed yesterday.
Local betel nut vendors are also making good money from their sales, unlike the normal time of the year.
She said the increasing number of people arriving in Gizo during this festive season has contributed to this increase in sales.
“Business has been good during this festive season,” the mother said.
The other concern expressed by visiting people from Honiara is poor banking services.
Since August this year, the only ANZ branch in Gizo has closed its branch and this has forced most of the ANZ customers to switch bank to Bank South Pacific (BSP).
However, this has presented a lot of problems for customers.
Yesterday, the queue outside of the bank both at the ATM and into the branch was endless.
A concerned customer who declined to be named said the unreliable BSP ATM machines in Gizo remain a problem.
It has caused so many inconveniences and frustrations to all BSP customers who traveled into Gizo from the surrounding islands.
He said the queue even reached the road and this is very sad for the customers to stand a very long time under the scorching hot sun.
‘’Even older people will have to stand for long hours.
‘’Plus the ATM has been on and off the whole last week and this week we are greeted with this situation.
“This also wasted our time which we should have spent in doing other activities,’’ he added.
Customers are urging BSP Management to improve and build at least one or two more ATM machines in the capital.
Although there were concerns raised, BSP management has never addressed the situation.
Its understood similar concern was also raised by BSP customers in Auki, Malaita Province.
Gizo is expected to be packed during the remaining days of this week.
Christmas will be celebrated this Friday.
BY ULUTAH GINA
GIZO NEWS BUREAU