The Hong Kong cargo vessel that collided with a Filipino-owned fishing boat off the coast of Occidental Mindoro may be held liable for not helping the crew of the fishing boat at the time when the incident happened, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said.
In a press conference on Tuesday, PCG commandant Vice Admiral George Ursabia Jr. said the crew of MV Vienna Wood did not deploy rescue boats to help fishing boat FV Liberty 5.
The cargo vessel was on the way to Australia from Subic, while the fishing boat, which came from Cagayan de Oro and Tawi-Tawi, was on its way to the Navotas Fish Port when they collided.
“According to them, they just stopped, remained at the area without deploying any small boats to conduct search and rescue operations or immediate assistance to the fishing vessel,” Ursabia said.
Ursabia said that the crew of MV Vienna explained that there were already several fishing vessels in the area during the incident.
“Not to mention, their ship is very big that they have to maneuver it afar from the small vessel because of safety reasons considering the sea condition at the time,” he added.
Ursabia said the PCG has been studying possible liabilities of the cargo vessel based on maritime laws.
“It is possible that they will have criminal and civil liabilities in this case. But there has to be due process for such,” Ursabia said.
“May basehan na they should render help agad from their end despite there are fishing vessels in the vicinity,” he added.
According to him, it took three hours before the command center at the PCG National Headquarters received the distress signal from the cargo ship through an e-mail.
Citing an official report, Ursabia said the incident happened at 10:22 p.m. on Saturday but they received the distress signal at 1:46 a.m. on Sunday.
“The incident happened at 2220h on the 27th of June. Nangyari ito 2220h ng gabi ng Sabado. Our command center here at the National Headquarters – PCG was able to receive the distress signal from that ship at around 0146h of the 28th of June,” Ursabia said.
“So only after three hours,” he said.
For Ursabia, those three hours were crucial.
Fourteen people were missing after FV Liberty 5 collided with the cargo vessel off the coast of Occidental Mindoro, the PCG said on Monday.
PCG spokesman Commodore Armand Balilo on Monday said the Hong Kong vessel had no cargo in it./Stacy Ang