Death toll rises to 6 in Palawan ferry sinking; overloading eyedBy Redempto D. Anda
Inquirer Southern Luzon
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Philippines – The number of casualties from the sinking of MV Joecill 2 off El Nido, Palawan rose to six after another body was found and retrieved by the Philippine Coast Guard Thursday morning as search and rescue operations were ongoing and an investigation on possible boat overloading was underway.
The victim was identified as Juanito Tito, a village councilor of Barangay (village) New Guinlo, Taytay, Palawan, according to Major Neil Estrella, chief of the information office of the Western Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Survivors interviewed over local radio Thursday, meanwhile, narrated that they last saw Tito removing the life jacket he was wearing and giving it to an elderly passenger before they jumped together into the water as the ferry began to sink. His body was found floating among the boat’s debris near Tent Island late Thursday morning as rescue and retrieval operations continued.
Estrella said that as of last update released by the Philippine Coast Guard, six passengers were still reported missing by their relatives while 56 have already been rescued and brought back to Taytay.
Two of those missing were identified as Mark Angelo Esmeria, 8 months old, and Julito Buenafe.
The owner of the vessel, Silverio Atienza of Silverio Shipping Lines, acknowledged during a radio interview here Thursday that the boat manifest did not include the names of other passengers onboard.
Earlier reports said the boat’s manifest only contained the names of 34 passengers. The boat also had 12 crew members, making the supposed total number of persons on board the ill-fated vessel to just 46.
“We are investigating why there was still a discrepancy. Either the crew allowed them as visitors or let them board the vessel for their monetary consideration,” Silverio said.
The boat, which came from mainland Palawan bound for El Nido, was also reported to have been loaded with 65 heads of carabao (water buffalo) when it sank off Tent Island on Tuesday night.