Senate to probe boat sinking in Laguna de Bay
MANILA, Philippines — The Senate will investigate the tragic passenger ferry accident that killed 27 people in Laguna de Bay on July 27, Sen. Grace Poe said in a statement issued on Sunday.
“This accident is enraging as it is saddening,” said Poe, who will be leading the probe as chair of the Senate public services committee.
“The loss of so many lives due to negligence or possible corrupt practices is no joke. That’s why we need to hold an investigation,” she said.
According to Poe, the inquiry will also review the status of previous incidents to check if the victims and their families received the necessary compensation from shipping companies involved in the sea tragedies.
The senator called on the authorities, particularly the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), to hold liable those responsible for the sinking of MB Aya Express, which overturned after it was walloped by strong winds just 50 meters from the shore of Barangay Kalinawan in Binangonan, Rizal province.
The PCG should explain why the motorized banca was allowed to leave the passenger port despite the bad weather brought about by Typhoon Egay (international name: Doksuri), Poe said.
Wear life jackets
The head of the coast guard station in Binangonan and another personnel has already been relieved following the tragedy but Poe said the boat’s owner and the PCG, she added, must also answer the accounts of several survivors that the boat was overloaded and that many of the passengers did not have life vests.
The PCG said the boat, which was only allowed to ferry 42 passengers, carried at least 70 people, including the 43 survivors and the 27 others who drowned, some of them children.
“It’s not enough that those responsible for this accident are relieved from their posts. They should be charged,” Poe reiterated.
Quezon City Rep. Marvin Rillo wondered why the MB Aya Express’ passengers were not wearing life jackets when that was already standard practice in most maritime vessels and even resorts.
“Every traveler on a motorized boat should be wearing a life jacket at all times throughout the voyage as a precaution,” he said. “This is a simple and practical measure that can help safeguard lives at sea, or in lakes and rivers.”
He pointed out: “If you visit beach resorts nowadays, and you hire a motorized boat for an island-hopping tour, they will require everybody onboard to put on a life jacket for protection.”
“The same rule should be applied to all light watercraft carrying paying passengers,” said Rillo, vice chair in the House committees on Metro Manila development and on tourism.
Motorized boats routinely ferry passengers across various points around the lake that is surrounded by Metro Manila and the provinces of Rizal and Laguna.