Solon questions maritime authorities’ capability to avert disasters
MANILA, Philippines — A lawmaker has questioned the country’s maritime authorities about what they are doing to avoid disasters and accidents, after a fire razed a maritime vessel off the waters of Basilan leaving at least 26 dead.
Cavite 4th District Rep. Elpidio Barzaga in a statement on Friday said that heads should roll after M/V Lady Mary Joy 3 of Aleson Shipping Lines, which was bound to Sulu, caught fire while approaching Basilan.
Barzaga in particular asked the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Maritime Agency Authority (Marina) as to what steps are being taken.
“Have we not learned anything? What is Marina and the Philippine Coast Guard doing now? Those who have been negligent should be held accountable for this accident because it could have been avoided if only they did their jobs,” he said.
The lawmaker also noted that it appears the country has not learned anything despite having a long history of maritime disasters, which either inflict damage to people or the environment.
Barzaga said he still remembers the Congressional probe in 2008 about M/V Princess of the Stars, which sank in June 2008 off the coast of Romblon, after passing through a tropical cyclone.
Just recently, maritime tanker Princess Empress sank off the coast of Oriental Mindoro, causing an oil spill which reached the shores of different towns and islands in the area.
He also noted that PCG and the Marina must check if the vessel was overloaded, as similar incidents in the past involved overloaded boats.
“What is the Coast Guard doing? If there were so many passengers, did they not check if the vessel was overloaded? Secondly, is there already an action to stop the shipping line from operating its other ferries on account of this incident?” Barzaga said.
“We haven’t even recovered yet from the oil spill incident and now, this happened. Here we go again,” he added.
MV Lady Mary Joy 3 was en route to Jolo, Sulu from Zamboanga City last March 29, when it caught fire at around 10:40 p.m. as it was passing near Baluk-Baluk island of Hadji Muhtamad town in Basilan.
This was two hours after the vessel departed from the port of Zamboanga City.
As of latest reports, the death toll in the fire that ravaged Sulu-bound M/V Lady Mary Joy 3 has already reached 26, after rescuers from the PCG recovered 13 more charred bodies inside.
The manifest said the vessel was carrying 205 passengers.