Binangonan Mayor: PCG shares blame for boat disaster
Mayor Cesar Ynares of Binangonan, Rizal, on Friday said both the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the operator of a motorized banca should be held responsible for the deaths of 27 people after the boat capsized and sank shortly after leaving the lakeshore town.
The MB Aya Express, which was previously identified as Princess Aya, was overloaded and the coast guard station commander and another officer were relieved from their posts on Friday.
“We already warned them not to allow overloading in their passenger boats because it is dangerous, but they still did it,” Ynares said in a radio interview.
PCG Commandant Adm. Artemio Abu said he had ordered “a fair, honest and transparent investigation” of the accident.
‘No sacred cows’
Rear Adm. Hostillo Arturo Cornelio, commander of the Coast Guard District National Capital Region-Central Luzon, told reporters that there would be “no sacred cows even if our own personnel are involved in this.”
“We will not give any of them special treatment,” he said.According to the PCG, Aya Express had a maximum seating capacity of 42, but at least 67 people were found to have been onboard—27, including children, who drowned, and 40 who survived.
Cornelio said it was still unclear whether there were more than this number, but “we assume there could be more.”
The authorities were also trying to verify accounts by survivors that the boat carried heavy cargoes, such as motorcycles and sacks of sand and rice.
Abu said there were only 22 passengers and three crew members on the manifest which was submitted to the PCG Sub-Station Binangonan.
“The Coast Guard no longer conducted an inspection. It’s a normal routine because what was indicated in the manifesto was below the authorized number. As such, the boat was allowed to sail,” Abu said.
He said that the local coast guard explained that the boat captain, Donald Anain, “felt bad” about leaving the passengers stranded in Binangonan for several days because of the “no-sail policy” due to Supertyphoon “Egay” (international name: Doksuri).
“So, there were a lot of passengers [waiting for a ride to Talim Island],” Abu said. “Apparently, these passengers forced themselves to join the trip.”
Hit by strong winds
According to a police report, Aya Express was operated by Anain, 40, and two crew members identified only as a Amain and Momo.
It left port in Barangay Kalinawan around 1 p.m. on Thursday for an 8.5-kilometer trip across Laguna Lake to Talim Island.
About 10 minutes into the voyage and about 50 meters from shore, it was hit by strong winds, causing the boat to tilt and breaking its outrigger. This prompted the passengers to panic and rush to the port (left) side of the boat, flipping it over. Among those who died were the two crew members.
Most of the people who survived were rescued by local villagers from Kalinawan.PCG spokesperson Rear Adm. Armand Balilo said divers were searching for bodies that may still be trapped in the boat that lies on the lake bed under murky waters.
Weather specialist Benny Estares said the strong winds in the Laguna Lake area and in Rizal on Thursday were caused by the southwest monsoon that was “enhanced” by the typhoon.
The sudden strong winds and heavy rain that hit the boat was likely due to a “windstorm,” he said.
Egay gained supertyphoon strength on Tuesday with 185-kilometers-per-hour winds and gusts of up to 230 kph, as its swept northwestward toward southern China.
It left a swath of destruction in many parts of Luzon, downing power lines, toppling trees, and causing floods and landslides, although it did not make landfall on the country’s largest island.
Its fierce winds and heavy rains affected around 400,000 people in 11 regions across the country.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and provincial disaster offices reported as of Friday that 21 other people died due to the typhoon, raising its death toll to 48. Eight others were missing in villages hit by landslides.
By Thursday afternoon, some areas in Ilocos Sur were still isolated, such as the mountainous town of Adams, and villages in Solsona town.
Officials of Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur, the two provinces hardest hit by the typhoon in Luzon, suspended work on Friday to give time for residents to recover in the wake of the devastation.
Ilocos Sur Gov. Jeremias “Jerry” Singson gave disaster-stricken individuals and communities “adequate time to repair and clean up damaged properties and care for immediate family members affected by the typhoon.”
Jessica Lucas, 29, who thought she had experienced the worst when Egay battered her village of Gabu Norte in Laoag late on Tuesday.
But what came the following day was more than she could imagine after two days of nonstop intense rainfall and whipping winds
“There have been typhoons in the past, and although we live near the river, I have never seen floodwater rise to this level because we already have drainage systems installed in our parts of the village,” Lucas told the Inquirer.
As floodwaters began to recede on Thursday, her family had to face the harrowing reality of picking up what was left of their belongings.
Telecommunication companies on Friday mounted their own typhoon relief for subscribers in areas hit Egay, deploying technical assistance and free connectivity services.
Globe Telecom Inc. said it had provided free calls, charging, mobile and Wi-Fi services in Apayao, Cagayan and the Ilocos Region.
KonsultaMD, its telehealth platform, is also providing free consultation for typhoon-hit residents requiring medical attention.
PLDT Group has activated its command center in Dau, Pampanga, to monitor the availability of its services in communities affected by the typhoon.
It also prepositioned power generators, back-up fuel and satellite phones in storm-hit areas.
—WITH REPORTS FROM JOHN MICHAEL MUGAS, VINCENT CABREZA ABBY BOISER AND TYRONE JAPER C. PIAD INQ
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