Laguna de Bay deaths not part of typhoon toll – OCD
MANILA, Philippines — The 27 passengers who drowned when a motorboat capsized in Laguna de Bay last week would not be added to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council’s (NDRRMC) official death toll on Typhoon Egay (international name: Doksuri) because the accident happened when the weather disturbance was already outside the Philippine area of responsibility (PAR).
According to Office of Civil Defense (OCD) deputy spokesperson Diego Mariano, the deaths should be “directly caused” by Egay to be part of the NDRRMC’s official count. “That’s why we validate these deaths,” he told the Inquirer on Monday.
Aside from the 27 people who died, 40 others were rescued in the waters off Binangonan, Rizal, on July 27 after MB Princess Aya overturned due to rough waters and strong winds. The boat was found to be carrying at least 67 people despite a maximum seating capacity of just 42.
At that time, Egay had left the PAR after spawning strong rains that caused floods in parts of Luzon. The weather disturbance, however, enhanced the southwest monsoon which continued to cause heavy rainfall and strong winds in many areas, including Rizal.
Mariano explained that there were usually disparities in the NDRRMC’s death toll compared to that of other agencies because it must validate the reported deaths first.
“With the local government units or the Philippine National Police, they only need bodies to declare these deaths regardless of the cause. Unlike in the NDRRMC, we need a police report, a death certificate and the cause of death should determine that it was storm-related,” he said.
On Monday, the NDRRMC reported 25 deaths from Egay, with only two of these confirmed so far and 23 others awaiting verification.
In Congress, lawmakers have separately called for an investigation into the boat’s sinking to determine who should be accountable.
Sen. Raffy Tulfo, who has filed a resolution in the Senate, criticized the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) for pinning the blame for the accident on the passenger boat’s owner and captain.
“Why are they always picking on the small fry? How about the big fish? These PCG officials have been telling us [lies]… We have to stop this. It’s about time we stop them from continuing to fool the public,” he said.
Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the Senate public services committee, also called for an investigation, saying the tragedy revealed serious maritime safety compliance lapses that need to be revisited.
At the House, Deputy Minority Leader France Castro pushed for an investigation to help determine lapses in safety regulations and enforcement that caused the accident.
“We need to examine if proper safety measures were in place, if the vessel was seaworthy, and if the crew had the necessary training and qualifications. These are critical questions that must be answered,” she said in a statement.