Court awards P241-M damages to MV Princess of the Stars victims | Inquirer News

Court awards P241-M damages to MV Princess of the Stars victims

/ 06:36 PM October 14, 2015

THE Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 49 has awarded over P241-million in damages to the victims in the MV Princess of the Stars tragedy over seven years ago.

In its 87-page decision, Manila RTC Branch 49 Judge Daniel C. Villanueva said the amount which will be paid by Sulpicio Lines Inc. (now Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corporation) shall earn 12 percent legal interest per annum starting from the date when the decision becomes final and until fully paid.

“A conscientious and thorough perusal of plaintiffs’ evidence reveals that the cause of action and claims of the plaintiffs are meritorious,” the court said.


The court added that evidence also showed that there was negligence on the part of the defendant Philippine Span Asia.


The court explained that under the law, common carrier such as Philippine Span Asia is bound to carry passengers safely, exercising utmost diligence.

“The duty of defendants as common carrier is to bring these passengers to Cebu safely, unharmed and alive. Defendants miserably failed in this duty, because the M/V Princess of the Stars never reached its destination as it capsized along the waters of Sibuyan, San Fernando, Romblon. That alone created the presumption that defendants are guilty of negligence,” the court said.

The court said the claimants were able to establish that there are contract of carriage between the passengers and the said shipping line based on the Passenger’s Manifest and by the Releases and Quitclaims.

The court also took note of the testimonies of Police Officer 2 Felix Rizaldy Sardan, the PCG Clearing Officer/Boarding Officer, Capt. Amado Romillo, an expert in maritime industry, and Real Admiral Luis M. Tuason of Pagasa who stated that the disaster was brought about by the gross negligence of the shipowner and ship management.

“Capt. Marimon was not unaware of the typhoon signals declared in the regular route of M/V Princess of the Stars (where it capsized) and even in its alternate route.  There was already a forecast from Pagasa that Storm Signal Nos. 2 and 3 were raised in the areas where M/V Princess of the Stars will be cruising, but no specific instruction was given for the M/V Princess of the Stars to take shelter,” the court said.

It added that there was also deception on the part of the Philippine Span Asia due to the existence of two cargo manifests exist – one with no declaration of the toxic substance “endosulfan,” and another declaring the same.  This is coupled with the Master’s Oath which states “NIL” in the portion pertaining to the carriage of dangerous cargo.


Endosulfan is a corrosive substance considered as a severe marine pollutant. It was discovered that the ship was carrying one 40-foot container containing 400 boxes of Endosulfan.

The court also took into consideration the Jan. 23, 2015 decision of the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) in revoking the Certificate of Public Convenience of Philippine Span Asia, formerly Sulpicio Lines.

It noted that while Marina’s ruling is not entirely binding on the court’s decision, considering its role in regulating the shipping industry of the Philippines, its decision “undoubtedly has a persuasive effect.”

In its ruling, Marina said the shipping firm failed to comply with the International Safety Management (ISM) and showed indication of a poor implementation of its safety management system.

Among the non-conformities committed by Sulpicio Lines are the following:

– Lack of compliance with their plans in key shipboard operations;

– Lack of compliance with the company’s requirements to ensure maintenance of the ship equipment;

– Lack of proper documentation related to requisitions on ship safety life-saving appliances and equipment etc.;

– Lack of coordination and support between shipboard and shore-based relative to ship safety operations and pollution prevention.

The court also cited the testimonies of survivors Francisco Batula, Gerardo Pelimer, Susan Lisbo and Rodel Laborte that there was no emergency crisis management employed by the shipping firm before, during and after the capsizing of the vessel.

“Evaluating the testimonies of the passengers of the M/V Princess of the Stars who survived the said tragic incident, this Court cannot fathom how hard it was for them to survive without any aid from the crew of the M/V Princess of the Stars. From their account of the tragedy, there is nothing which shows that during that time, any of the crew of the M/V Princess of the Stars assisted them,” the court said.

“The passengers were on their own, trying to grasp whatever there was at that time to save them from drowning,” the court added.

The court has ordered officers of the shipping firm to pay the relatives of those who died in the tragedy as well as the four survivors actual, moral and exemplary damages as well as the loss of earning capacity pursuant to the provisions of the Civil Code.

A total of 71 complaints for damages have been filed in court but the court only granted 64 complaints for damages due to failure to present evidence of the relatives of the victims.

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The MV Princess of the Stars capsized on June 21, 2008 into the waters off Sibuyan Island in Romblon during the onslaught of the typhoon “Frank.” Out  of the 851 passengers and crew onboard, only 32 survived.

TAGS: Damages, Marina, sea tragedy, Sea Transport

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