2 soldiers missing in the ill-fated ship that caught fire off Basilan
ZAMBOANGA CITY, ZAMBOANGA DEL SUR – The military in Sulu is still searching for two more soldiers from the ill-fated ship MV Lady Mary Joy 3 that caught fire Wednesday night in the waters off Baluk-Baluk Island, Hadji Muhtamad town, Basilan province.
Major General Ignatius Patrimonio, commander of the Joint Task Force Sulu and 11th Infantry Division, said the missing soldiers were part of the 32 who boarded the boat that left Zamboanga City for Jolo, Sulu, supposedly to return to their respective units.
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Zamboanga station reported 29 people who died, 18 of them from the burning ship while 18 others drowned.
“Of the 32 soldiers, (30) survived the incident, including three who suffered minor injuries,” Patrimonio told the Inquirer. “Unfortunately, we still have two (soldiers) missing.”
Patrimonio identified the two missing soldiers as Staff Sergeant Androw Cervatos of the 35th Infantry Battalion and Private First Class Marion Malda of the 41st Infantry Battalion. Cervatos and Malda were among the seven missing persons identified by the Philippine Coast Guard Zamboanga station, which based their figures on the 252 passengers listed in the boat’s manifest. According to Ensign Tennessee Rojas, deputy commander of PCG Zamboanga, 216 passengers survived and 29 died, meaning seven remained missing and unaccounted for.
The two missing soldiers were also included in the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) list of Basilan, which reported 22 persons missing.
Various information about the rescue and search operations indicated more people boarded the boat than was documented, which could explain the data disparity between the two agencies. “We need to investigate why there are more survivors than the number of passengers in the manifesto,” Zamboanga City Rep. Khymer Adan Olaso, whose wife’s family owns Aleson Shipping, earlier said. However, he assured the public that Aleson Shipping would cooperate with the investigators.
Ensign Tennessee Rojas, deputy commander of the PCG Zamboanga Station, said there were still several charred remains recovered on the second floor of the ship, which still needed to be identified through DNA testing. Rojas said the reported missing persons could be among them. “We cannot yet determine the identities. They will be subjected to SOCO and DNA testing,” Rojas said.
Patrimonio said three injured soldiers were brought to Camp Navarro General Hospital inside the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) and were still recuperating.
“The Joint Task Force (JTF) Sulu and the 11th Infantry “Alakadan” Division extend their deepest sympathy to the victims of the incident and their families. We are now in close coordination with the Philippine Coast Guard, the Aleson Shipping Lines and the Sulu Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office on the status of the search and rescue and the disposition of our troops,” he said.
He added that the men and women of JTF Sulu remained committed to “providing peace and security in the province of Sulu.”
“We may not be able to predict this type of incident, but we assure you that we are taking precautions to avoid similar incidents from happening again in the future,” he said.
Among the 29 persons who died were six-month-old Arsaic Damil and three-year-old Fadzdrina Lasal and Abdukalam Alih, 60.