Recurrent Shipwrecks And The Horrific Maritime Record in the Philippines

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The reason why there is the repeat of negligence among these shipping lines is because the law takes such a long time. We need to execute a swift prosecution and conviction of the guilty on this case,” -Sen. Francis Pangilinan. Malaya (06.25/07, Montemayor, J.)

Sulpicio Lines—that’s the company! The recurrent shipwrecks befalling this shipping outfit are disgusting entries in the bloody maritime record of the Philippines. The inter-island company has the hideous distinction of being involved in several of the world’s unforgettable ship mishaps, one of them, the history’s worst sea disaster which claimed the lives of innocents, larger in number than those who perished in 911.

Princess of the Stars keeled at the height of Typhoon Frank (see pictures by Reuters.) With shifting inaccurate numbers of passengers which cast doubt on the veracity of the manifest, the ill-fated ship was whacked and swallowed by the churning waves—bigger and more fearsome than the rugged tall mountains nearby. Disaster-prone Philippines had been in a state of temporary shock, begging for international aid.

Pray for those who died. They need justice. Think of the victims’ families who shed tears, their eyes red in seething anger. In grief, they know their poor loved ones are gone, never to set foot on dry land again. Perhaps they’ll not get the justice they deserved. Think of the good works the hapless 800+ victims could have contributed in their lifetime if they weren’t cut silent by negligence, bad luck, or act of God.

MV Princess of the Stars, sank during Typhoon Frank, 800 plus missing or lost, June 22, 2008
MV Dona Marilyn, sank during Typhoon Unsang, Oct 24, 1988, 250 lives lost
MV Princess of the Orient, sank during Typhoon Guding, Sept 18, 1988, 150 lives lost
MV Dona Paz, sank after a collision with tanker Vector, Dec 20, 1987, 4000+ died (worst maritime disaster in history)

How can we rest our thoughts with this? We have ample blame to spread around. The “royal” liner sank with several capsized smaller boats at the height of the storm. Littered bloated bodies in the sea soon commingled after Typhoon Frank left, making it hard to know from which sunken ferry they came from. Does God bear grudge on our people?

Not learning its lessons, Sulpicio Lines pulled through (with least accountability) in the past. The rulings on earlier shipwrecks placed little blame on this company whose victims, too poor to wage protracted legal battles, hungered for justice.

Since the storm’s path could be ascertained in real time, its progress could be accurately charted. There should have been ample wiggle room to successfully escape the typhoon if caution was observed.

Negligence and incompetence were more likely when too frequent mishaps recurred in the hands of the same people—the ship’s crew and the Coast Guard. Whether Sulpicio Lines and the Coast Guard took safety and human life for granted was something the whole nation deserved to know.

The United States donated $100,000 to the ferry disaster fund. The French government also offered help. In appeals so familiar, the Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines (CBCP,) Pres. Gloria M. Arroyo and the swanky troop of 59 senators who joined her to the White House, begged for more generous donations.

Who will ascertain that these dole-outs will go to the right beneficiaries? How much will the ferry company spend as aid and compensation? With taxpayer’s money, how much will the government spend to put this avoidable tragedy far in the backstage— so that the next national disaster in the offing can catch our attention? =0=

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