Someone should be held accountable for the deaths of the 29 passengers of MV Lady Mary Joy 3, which caught fire late Wednesday evening off the waters of Basilan, according to Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr.
“Have we not learned anything?” said the lawmaker. “What is MARINA and the Philippine Coast Guard doing now? Those who have been negligent should be held accountable for this accident because it could have been avoided if only they did their jobs.”
Barzaga said the Philippine Coast Guard and the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) should explain if the vessel was again overloaded since such has always been the case in previous maritime accidents.
He said he can still distinctly remember the 2008 investigation of the House committee on transportation into the sinking of MV Princess of the Stars
which claimed the lives of over 800 people “and now, this tragedy in Basilan happened.”
The enactment into law of the Maritime Code measure was among the transportation panel’s recommendations after its inquiry into the 2008 maritime tragedy, the passenger ferry owned by Filipino shipping company Sulpicio Lines, that sank on June 21, 2008, off the coast of San Fernando, Romblon, at the height of Typhoon Frank.
“What is the Coast Guard doing? If there were so many passengers, did they not check if the vessel was overloaded? Secondly, is there already an action to stop the shipping line from operating its other ferries on account of this incident? Barzaga said.
Mayor Arsina Kahing-Nanoh of Hadji Muhtamad, Basilan has said the ferry’s manifest was inaccurate which made it difficult for authorities to conduct search, rescue and retrieval operations.
She said the Coast Guard’s record showed there were only 205 passengers. However, 195 people were already rescued, excluding the number of those who died, which means that the figures do not match.
Barzaga also lamented that the latest maritime incident happened in the wake of the sinking of motor tanker (MT) Princess Empress last February 28 in the waters off Naujan, Oriental Mindoro which spilled 800,000 liters of industrialized fuel.
“We haven’t even recovered yet from the oil spill incident and now, this happened. Here we go again,” said the senior lawmaker, who chairs the House Committee on Natural Resources.
Authorities are still looking into reports that the fire started from an airconditioning unit.
MV Lady Mary Joy 3 was en route to Jolo, Sulu from Zamboanga City last March 29 when it caught fire at around 10:40 p.m.
Catherine R. Cueto