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Philippine Senate probes ferry sinking

Philippine Senate probes ferry sinking

The Philippine Senate opened an investigation Tuesday into twin sea disasters as the number of people missing and feared dead from one of the sunken ferries jumped because the ship sailed with an incomplete manifest.
The coast guard first reported 22 out of 88 people on board missing from the drive-on ferry MV Baleno-9, which sank late Saturday off Batangas province, south of Manila, just three days after another ferry, the wooden-hulled MV Catalyn B, sank in Manila Bay on Christmas Eve.
The number of people on board and missing from MV Baleno-9 has changed daily, with the coast guard reporting Tuesday that up to 123 people may have been on board and 44 may still be unaccounted for. Six bodies have been recovered and 73 rescued.
Philippine National Red Cross official Gwnedolyn Pang said at least 54 people have been reported by their relatives as missing from MV Baleno-9.
The ship may have sunk because some of its doors may have been left open, said Elena Bautista, head of the Maritime Industry Authority. Survivors said the ship took in water from the bow ramp, and vehicles on its cargo hold may have moved.
Sen. Richard Gordon, head of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, questioned coast guard officials and Bautista on why the ferry was allowed to sail when it's original manifest listed only 14 passengers.
"When can we have a passenger manifest that people can rely on?" he asked.
Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo acknowledged that in some cases, passenger buses loaded onto such ferries as MV Baleno-9 are not counted because the bus gets on the ship late and there is no more time to count travelers before the ship departs.
He said the coast guard does not have the resources to count all the people on board especially on big ships with more than a thousand passengers and relies on the manifest submitted by the ship owner along with the ship captain's oath of safe departure.
Gordon questioned if lax coast guard enforcers were being bribed. He ordered officials to investigate and submit a report to the committee.
Sea accidents are common in the archipelago because of tropical storms, badly maintained boats and weak enforcement of safety regulations. Ferries can often sail overloaded or with incomplete passenger manifest.


Updated : 2021-04-18 02:46 GMT+08:00