Archive for the ‘ship capsizes’ Category

A Sorry Maritime Safety Record Indeed In The Philippines

November 9, 2008




Few question that currently Sulpicio Lines holds the most notoriety among local shipping companies. But as I have pointed out in a previous article [“The Blame Game and Other Musing”, 7/13/08] the combined WG&A is not too far behind Sulpicio, going by actual statistics.

Maybe due to the sheer number of incidents, a few of these gets left out. Or we may not be too meticulous in keeping records (the Maritime Industry Authority [MARINA] doesn’t even have its ship database in order). Or far-flung incidents sometimes does not catch the attention of the national media (except when casualties are simply too many).

Few would remember that in May 1980, the Sulpicio ship MV Dona Paulina struck bottom. The same thing happened to Don Victoriano I in April 1982. Both ships were declared total losses. These two incidents happened before the infamous Dona Paz and Dona Marilyn accidents in 1987 and 1988 (see Totie Mesia’s article, “RP’s Maritime Disasters: A Harvest of Shame and Blame”, 11/08/08). Aside from these, Sulpicio Lines’ ships were also involved in minor incidents like grounding, collision, ship fire and engine breakdowns that did not involve loss of life or the total loss of the ship.

Maybe to break its string of “bad luck” (the local euphemism for loser’s fate), Sulpicio Lines changed the name of their ships into Princesses. For a while it probably broke Sulpicio’s jinx but on December 1997, it lost MV Philippine Princess (a former flagship) to fire and subsequent sinking followed by the sinking of the MV Princess of the Orient (another former flagship) in September 1998. Finally, “bad luck” caught up with a reigning flagship, the MV Princess of the Stars, which capsized recently.

In the same period, some other obscure incidents happened to ships not connected to Sulpicio. In the early ’90s the following ships were lost:

1. MV Emerald which capsized according to MARINA records.

2. MV Ruby I of Alexis Shipping: a RO-RO that sunk just off the port of Calapan due to a holed bottom.

3. A SuperCat (a catamaran) of Aboitiz was lost due to another holed bottom between Mindoro and Batangas.

4 . MV Manila City of William Lines: a Manila-Cebu ship that caught fire while under drydock in Cebu City and was totally lost.

From the mid-’90s and 2000, the following ships were lost to fire:

1. MV Viva Antipolo 7 which caught fire in 1995 according to MARINA records. This ship was totally lost.

2. MV Gretchen which caught fire in 1996 according to MARINA records.

3. MV Kalibo Star of Maypalad Shipping which caught fire in 1997.

4. MV SuperFerry 7 of WG&A: caught fire on March 1997 just after unloading passengers in North Harbor, Manila and was lost.

5. MV Rosalia II of Lapu-lapu Shipping: a Cebu-Cataingan ferry that caught fire a few kilometers before Cataingan port, on August 1999. Three passengers were killed.

6. MV SuperFerry 6 of WG&A: caught fire on October 2000 just off Batangas and was lost. Its nearness to major sea lanes and ports assured the survival of all the passengers.

In this decade, the following steel ferries of minor shipping lines met major accidents. The details of these incidents are not complete:

1. MV Penafrancia which caught fire according to MARINA records.

2. MV Ruperto Jr. of Tamula Shipping: a Camiguin ferry which caught fire.

3. A Super Shuttle Ferry ship of Asian Marine Transport capsized.

4. MV Joy-Ruby of Atienza Shipping: sunk just off the port of Coron, Palawan.

5. MV Pulauan Ferry of George&Peter Lines: a Siquijor ferry that sunk off Cebu City.

Additionally, the following major incidents happened in the last 6 years:

1. MV Princess Camille of Shipshape Shipping: took in water while unloading passengers in Odiongan, Romblon and capsized.

2. MB Mae-Ann 5 of Lobrigo Shipping: overwhelmed by waves off Masbate City on May 12, 2005 while Typhoon Caloy was blowing. 27 people died.

3. MV Princess of the World of Sulpicio Lines: caught fire off Zamboanga del Norte coast on July 2005 and was totally burned.

4. MV Dona Ramona of Basilan Shipping: a bomb exploded while docked in Lamitan, Basilan, on August 8, 2005. Three died.

5. MV Butuan Bay of Gothong Shipping: its engine exploded just after leaving Cebu City on May 16, 2007. Three crewmen died.

6. MV Blue Water Princess of Blue Water Princess Shipping: bad weather and strong waves caused it to capsized off Bondoc Peninsula, Quezon on July 12, 2007 where 12 persons died.

7. MV Northern Samar of Bicolandia Shipping capsized in the height of a typhoon while docked in Tabaco port. Big waves moved the ship against a rock and the bottom was holed.

Additionally, an explosion and a fire happened on August 2002 while MV Tacloban Princess of Sulpicio Lines was drydocked. Two people were killed.

These 22 major incidents are separate from those mentioned in Totie Mesia’s article [“RP’s Maritime Disasters: A Harvest of Blame and Shame”, 11/08/08]. Proving that marine safety is indeed poor in this country.

RP’s maritime disasters: a harvest of blame and shame

November 7, 2008

The frequent maritime disasters in the Philippines make us look back and ponder what the country can do to prepare itself for the next sea tragedy. In Umalohokan (06/22/08, Fabonan, E) a Philippine Normal University blogsite, a review of the horrible sea disasters has been written, some of them incredibly disgusting. (see below.)

It’s amazing how the Philippine government, the coast guard, and maritime authorities don’t do enough to answer the demand of the public for a safer sea travel. This month, the latest sinking involves passenger boat Rolly IV on its way to the island of Mailoglog in Iloilo on November 6, 2008. Nine (9) passengers perished.

Two days before on November 4, 2008, ML Don Dexter Cathlyn sank in Masbate with more than 40 poor passengers dead. Recalling those who perished in the shipwrecks, here is the harvest of blame and shame which must rattle the conscience of those responsible. People who died and were lost at sea cry, ever strong than the waves, asking for justice and accountability.

1. December 20, 1987 – MV Dona Paz: Colliding with tanker Vector in Tablas Strait, the ship’s sinking in the Philippines is believed to be the world’s worst maritime disaster in modern history. Although the ships report a lower death toll at 4,375, the official number of those who died is 1,565. The 1,568 listed on the manifest is more than the licensed maximum of 1,518—suggeting overcrowding.

2. October 24, 1988 – MV Dona Marilyn: A sister ship of MV Dona Paz, this ship is owned by Sulpicio Lines. Bound for Cebu, the ship left Manila, later plunged down the seafloor and killed 254 people on October 24, 1988 during a typhoon.

3. December 2, 1994 – MV Cebu City: In December 2, 1994, the ferry sank in Manila Bay after a collision with Singaporean freighter Kota Suria claiming 140 lives. The Philippine Coast Guard ruled that the crew was accountable. The collision could have been averted if the Cebu City crew obeyed a call from Kota Suria to turn right. Instead, but the ship erroneously turned left and crossed Kota Suria’s path.

4. December 13, 1995 – MV Kimelody Cristy: A passenger ferry owned by Moreta Shipping Lines Inc. which was gutted by fire and went aground on its way to Mindoro. 17 people died and 16 were missing. Investigation disclosed the ship had only a provisional authority from MARINA officials to operate..

5. September 20, 1998 – MV Princess of the Orient: Another passenger ferry owned by Sulpicio Lines. On its way to Cebu City from Manila, it sank killing 150 people. The ship reportedly left the port of Manila even as a typhoon signal has been declared in the city.

6. December 23, 1999 – MV Asia South Korea: A passenger ferry owned by Trans-Asia Shipping Lines. On its way to Iloilo City from Cebu City during the Christmas holiday rush. It sank off Bantayan Island in Cebu province killing 44 people. The number of passengers exceeded the total capacity the ferry which left port even if authorities forbid the travel because of a storm.

7. February 25, 2000 – MV Our Lady of Mediatrix: This passenger ferry caught fire as it was about to dock. Two bombs rigged inside three buses on-board exploded killing 45 people. The government to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF.) for the incident.

8. April 12, 2000 – ML Annahada: A merchant launch sank off Sulu, Philippines on April 12, 2000; due to overloading; Of the 150 to 200 passengers onboard, 56 people were reportedly killed and over 100 missing. Most of the passengers were reportedly illegal migrants on their way to Tawi-Tawi which then serves as gateway to Malaysia and Indonesia.

9. April 11, 2002 – MV Maria Carmela: Owned by Montenegro Shipping Lines, the ship left Masbate port on April 10. 2002 but caught fire just an hour away from Lucena, Quezon, its destination. Of the 290 passengers and crew, 23 were killed and 27 reported missing.

10. May 26, 2003 – MV San Nicolas: The merchant vessel collided with WGA Superferry 12 off the coast of Corregidor Island on May 26, 2003 during an stormy weather. Of the 203 passengers, 39 people were killed; serious errors and negligence were blamed as the cause of the collision.

11. February 27, 2004 – WGA Superferry 14: Ferry operated by the WG&A Consortium which sank of the coast of Corregidor Island on February 27, 2004 after an explosion, killing at least 100 of the 899 passengers and crew. Muslim extremist group Abu Sayyaf was reported responsible for the incident.

12. June 10, 2007 – MV Cathlyn-D: Ship operated by San Nicolas Shipping which went under off Paluan Bay in Mindoro Occidental province after catching fire; out of 260 passengers, 5 people were killed; negligence was to blame. The ships in the company’s fleet were temporarily grounded.

13. June 22, 2008 – MV Princess of the Stars: The passenger ferry owned by Sulpicio Linest sank off San Fernando town in Sibuyan Island, Romblon Province. The ferry was bound for Cebu City from Manila during Typhoon Frank. It ran aground killing 823 passengers. The illegal endosulfan toxic cargo has been recovered. Retrieval of bodies is still ongoing.

14. Novermber 4, 2008- ML Don Dexter Cathlyn: The inter-island ferry sank on its way from Masbate to Sorsogon in Bicol. Inconsistent to the official number of passengers in the manifest, at least forty-two persons (42) were reported to have died, seventy-six (76) had been rescued, and thirteen (13) were unaccounted for. The bodies included 25 women, 5 men, and 4 children between ages 1 to 4. They were displayed in the town plaza for grieving relatives to identify,

15. November 6, 2008—Motor Launch Rolly IV: The ferry sank killing 9 people as it cruised to Mailoglog, Iloilo during inclement weather. As of November 8, fatalities rose to 13 people. Photo Credits: Umalohokan.blogspot; Bullit Marquez/AP; AP)=0=


RELATED BLOGS:Ferry boat sinks in Masbate killing 40” Posted by mesiamd at 11/04/2008; “Boat mishap in Iloilo, 9 dead” Posted by mesiamd at 11/06/2008; “The need for witnesses in the Princess of the Stars toxic chemical recovery” Posted by mesiamd at 9/25/2008; “Endosulfan safely retrieved: where are the other toxic chemicals?” Posted by mesiamd at 10/07/2008 ;”Toxic Cargo” Posted by mesiamd at 6/28/2008.

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Ferry boat sinks in Masbate killing 40

November 4, 2008

Barely have we forgotten the horrors of the sinking of Sulpicio Lines’ Princess of the Stars on June 21, 2008, a passenger ferry capsized on Tuesday, November 4, 2008, in Masbate, an island southeast of Manila. With 119 listed passengers and 6 crew members, a possible strong gale or squall swept M/L Don Dexter Cathlyn on its way to Bulan, Sorsogon from Dimasalang, Masbate.

Inconsistent to the official number of passengers in the manifest, at least forty persons (40) were reported to have died, seventy-six (76) had been rescued, and thirteen (13) were unaccounted for. Displayed in the town plaza for grieving relatives to identify, the bodies included 25 women, 5 men, and 4 children between ages 1 to 4.

According to Masbate Provincial police chief Reuben Sindac, the sea was relatively calm and there was no rain or typhoon when the mishap happened. Ship overloading was suspected. GMA News/ AP (11/04/08, Balagtas-See, A)

The sinking of ferry boats and passenger deaths have been recurrent tragic problems in the Philippine maritime industry. Stricter government oversight, safety measures, and accountability have been demanded by the public, but no improvement so far is in sight. (Photo Credits:http://weather-forcast.com; http://philippine.bayaw.com) =0=

UPDATE: November 5, 2008, the death toll in the Masbate sea mishap rises to 42.
PO2 Bernardo Pajalla Jr. of Masbate police has identified the fatalities as of 10 p.m. Tuesday November 4, 2008 as:

1. Michelle Ramirez, 1
2. Ritchinel Andaya, 3
3. Nathaniel Andaya, 6
4. Maricel Ornopia, 30
5. Silvina Gabriel, 58
6. Auria Pasas, 66
7. Rosalie Atabay, 26
8. Rosalina Atabay, 50
9. Crisilda Atabay, 7
10. Cizzia Atabay, 6
11. Joy-joy Atabay,6
12. In-in Nueva, 16
13. Grace Capellan, 48
14. Larganie Capellan, 5
15. Lean Capellan, 2
16. Teresita Abejuela, 40
17. John Paul Abejuela, 6
18. Nenita Matos, 36
19. Charlene Leastardo, 19
20. Jimmy Banaag, 22
21. Filipina Anman, 66
22. Ana Nerbis, 59
23. Consolacion Baybayon, 78
24. Lanie Mahinay, 18
25. Sonia Cordera, 40
26. Adelina Adobas, 74
27. Reynaldo Arcueno, 42
28. Jennifer Mantal, 34
29. Nerie Badillo, 44
30. Jessica Marsonia, 36
31. Benita Hermosa, 67
32. Olympio Blaso, 64
33. Rosalina Pilapil, 50
34. Marichu Apao, 5
35. Parcy Abenir, 6
36. Salud Abenir, 65
37. Rossie Belarmino, 57
38. Marilyn Lleness, 43
39. Christian Ramos, 4
40. Francisca Rondina, 50

Endosulfan safely retrieved: where are the other toxic chemicals?

October 6, 2008

There is a sigh of relief from the successful recovery of the toxic chemical cargo endosulfan from the ill-fated ship Princess of the Stars which sank at the height of Typhoon Frank 3 months ago in Romblon, Philippines. As the 402 barrels of endosulfan (about 10,000 kg) are sent to Manila, the government is bent to return the shipment to Israel.

The focus now must be the unfinished job of finding the other toxic chemicals and the retrieval of bodies which were trapped in the ship. About 10,000 liters of bunker fuel and at least four hazardous chemicals namely carbofuran, propineb, metamidophos and niclosamide haven’t been fully accounted for. In addition, it is unclear what happened to the 16 metric tons of toluene diisocyanate (TDI) in 80 drums that are missing from another ship: the MV Ocean Papa which sank in Mararison Island, Culasi.

So long as these hazardous chemicals haven’t accounted for, the danger of contamination is still there. Continued search for the missing toxic cargoes and monitoring of the surrounding environment are still priorities. The accountability of those responsible, particularly Sulpicio Lines, owner of the ship, must be pursued.(Photo Credit: AP/Bullit Marquez)=0=

The need for witnesses in the Princess of the Stars toxic chemical recovery

September 25, 2008

Divers from Titan Salvage and Harbor Star started their salvage work by taking a survey near around “ground zero,” but media were kept away from the operations center.” GMANewsTV (09/25/08, Dedace, S.)

Why will government officials disallow the media to observe the conduct of the endosulfan recovery operations in the sunken ship Princess of the Stars? With toxic chemicals on board, the ship owned by Sulpicio Lines sank at the height of Typhoon Frank on June 21, 2008, killing about 800 passengers.

For the sake of truth, it’s important that the salvage operation be witnessed. The relatives of those who perished need to know how the bodies trapped in the ship are being handled. Residents in the area close to the sunken ship are anxious to know where their safety stands as sluggish recovery goes on. There must be no secrecy in the recovery operation.

The longer it takes to recover the toxic chemicals, the higher the chance the containers will leak and cause contamination. With real fear of an environmental disaster, the public is left guessing for three months now what’s going on with the chemicals left out to leach in the salty sea.


A haphazard handling of endosulfan can contaminate the area. The hazardous chemical can be carried far by water current and is capable of sparking an environmental catastrophe which can cause havoc in humans and wildlife. If this happens, without the media watching, few people can be warned. And less people will know the truth.

The plan of the local government of Romblon to evacuate residents in case of a spill is laudable, but the people must be assured that the handling of hazardous material is done correctly. To allay public fear, the government needs periodic advisories on the progress of the salvage operation. But these aren’t done as expected.

Perhaps, to discourage the media from being in the site, the concern about being exposed to toxic chemicals isn’t justified. Reporters usually come to sites of danger as part of their jobs, just like those workers who signed up to work in the submerged ship. (Photo Credits: Somophils; Zinnie)=0=

Dark Knight’s Blockbuster Bonanza, Zimbabwe’s $100 Billion Dollar Note, & GMA’s Dismal Popularity Rating

July 21, 2008

$155.34 million
-Hollywood’s popular record-breaking block-buster entertainment “The Dark Knight” is Christopher Nolan’s dark sequel to “Batman Begins” which drew excited fans and profits in tinseltown on the first week of showing. Recently deceased actor Heath Ledger acts as the Joker. There are those who think the movie is too violent and may not be appropriate for kids below 12.

$100 billion note
-To cope with a hyperinflation of 2.2 million percent, Zimbabwe’s Central Bank issued this latest huge bank note in a series of high money denominations, to deal with cash and food shortages leaving 80% of its people below the poverty line.

(-) 38%
-Social Weather Station (SWS) revealed the dismal approval rating of Pres. Gloria M. Arroyo on July 18, 2008, making her the most unpopular Philippine president since 1986. It’s lower than her (-) 33% approval rating in May 2005, prompting Bishop Deogracias Iniguez, head of CBCP to advise the president to take her unpopularity “seriously.”

4,124
-The number of US military troops who died in the Iraq War since it started 5 years ago, according to a recent count by the Associated Press on July 20, 2008.

0
-No one has lost money in FDIC-insured savings of up to $100,000 in the last 75 years, said Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson who cautions anxious Americans of harder times ahead, but assures the soundness of the US banking system.

30 days
-The expected time to retrieve the estimated 200,000 liters of industrial fuel and 10 metric-ton toxic endosulfan trapped in the sunken Princess of the Stars (threatening to pollute the Sibuyan Sea.) The projected cost of retrieval is $7.5 million (P318 million.)

87 drums
-Number of missing drums of toxic toluene diisocyanate (apart from the hazardous 10 metric tons of endosulfan and ship fuel in the Princess of the Sea) that need retrieval from another ship, M/V Ocean Papa, also grounded by Typhoon Frank.

2,167
-Central Luzon’s number of dengue fever cases, a rise of 273% from last year’s number with two reported deaths as of July 21, 2008.

$1.42 billion
-Total remittance of OFW’s in May 2008, a 15.5% increase from last year’s. This is accompanied by the exodus of 533,945 Filipinos, a 39.5% rise in the first five months of 2008 who seek jobs abroad.

$145.59 million
-The amount of foreign investments withdrawn from the Philippines in June, 2008—a reversal to last year’s inflow investments totaling $871.41 million which entered the country. A total of $417 million from foreign investors left the country since Jan. 2008. =0=

Toxic Cargo

June 28, 2008

After Sulpicio Lines blamed God for the sinking of the passenger ship “Princess for the Stars,” an illegal cargo of 10 metric tons of endosulfan, a highly hazardous neurotoxic organochlorine insecticide was found in the shipwreck, prompting divers to stop their mission of retrieving bodies from the ship’s hull.

According to Philstar (06/28/08, Berondo, W. et. Al)

They (Sulpicio Lines) only told Del Monte on Wednesday, in writing, that the cargo had been switched to the passenger ship. That was five days after the ferry sank. This type of chemical is not allowed on board passenger ships. ” Norlito Vicana, the director of the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority told ABS-CBN.

Del Monte said Sulpicio Lines loaded the endosulfan on the Princess of the Stars instead of the Princess of the Paradise “ without the knowledge and consent of Del Monte Philippines, Inc. (DMPI.)”

“ Upon learning that our cargo was loaded on the ill-fated Princess of the Stars, we immediately informed the FPA, ” a DMPI statement read.

With a clamor to ban the dangerous chemical worldwide, the use of endosulfan (thiodan) is prohibited in the European Union (EU) and other countries; its use in the Philippines is restricted. The United States still uses the pesticide which was first registered in 1954 for agricultural use, mainly to control insects and pests on fruits and vegetables.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) did not have knowledge of the toxic cargo placed inside a container van until it learned from DMPI, the insecticide consignee. Although no evidence of leakage has been detected, some divers had their blood checked for exposure in a laboratory in Singapore.

When ingested, inhaled or absorbed in the skin in significant amounts, acute endosulfan poisoning causes hyperactivity, nausea, dizziness, headache, tremors, seizures or even death. Chronic exposure can affect endocrine function as reproductive maturation delay and it can bring damage to the kidneys, testes and the liver. There is no antidote for endosulfan poisoning, and treatment is basically supportive (i.e. anticonvulsants for seizures.)=0=

The Ferry Tragedy: Lack Of Body Bags And The Dearth Of Forensic Expertise

June 27, 2008

The advice of UP pathologist Dr. Raquel Fortun that “there must be a detailed external examination of all remains recovered while the soft tissues are still intact for documentation and proper identification” seems to be what we know from a pathology textbook. But for those who are aware of how forensic science is practiced in the Philippines, this recommendation is a pipe dream, especially for those who lost loved ones in the Princess of the Stars tragedy.

In spite of advanced forensic technology currently in use today, our investigators are mostly operating on antiquated scientific grounds, very much like the outdated travel guidelines Sulpicio Lines followed which led to the ill-fated ship to its seabed grave. Our forensic doctors may well be 50 years behind in what modern science normally does to deal with deaths of this magnitude.

We don’t have enough freezers and body bags to keep our cadavers. There is no central repository of bodies that’s needed to secure material evidence and specimens for testing. We lack the manpower and logistics to deal with such a catastrophe which upsets all of us. With no time to put up a coordinated team, pressure to bury decomposing bodies builds up. The public is afraid of potential contamination and outbreak of diseases.

Since I left UP-PGH in the 1980’s, little had changed in our way of medico-legal investigation. In those days, as member of the Department of Pathology, I volunteered to help examine remains—a thankless job I did for free, because few pathologists in the academe were willing to do it. I believed it was a calling which I must sustain for those who sought justice. I joined the National Bureau Investigation (NBI,) Commission on Human Rights (CHR,) and some cause-oriented groups perform autopsies and identifications, mostly for victims of violence and killings during Marcos’s time.

The reasons for the dearth of interest in forensic science are largely predictable. For years, the systemic lack of budget has spawned a culture of waiting, inaction, and helplessness on the part of the government. Gruesome and messy as necropsies may be, forensic science is a tedious job. Few doctors go into the specialty for lack of appreciation of its contribution to our society. It appears a sizeable number of medico-legal doctors stick to their jobs as their source of livelihood, not because they gain professional satisfaction in caring for the dead and in seeking the truth behind a person’s passing.

Many medico-legal doctors in the Philippines are trained on the routine crime scene investigation, identification of bodies and autopsy, but they sorely lack support. As basic as a steady supply of gloves, sharp scalpels, or a good morgue assistant, pathologists don’t have standard modern autopsy facilities. Besides, they have only a few credible laboratories with state-of-the-art capabilities which can help put their cases to rest.

The routine death investigations do not usually pose problems. It is the sensational demise, those that hug the news and cause public controversy and pain that bring embarrassment to our medico-legal capabilities. In our ranks, we have forensic workers who are slowed by the endemic problems of the profession: job-overload, lack of facilities, inadequate budgetary support, turf wars, and a dearth in trained manpower.

There are times when we don’t believe what our medico-legal investigators say. Questionable results of past cases make them appear untrustworthy. The question of competence and honesty often crop up, making them cynical and defensive. Burdened by their deficiencies, they end up as apologists and defenders of an institution that needs total overhaul.

Body retrieval and identification disturb us. In mass deaths, our instinct is to ask help from forensic experts abroad, believing that it’s the only way a reliable medico-legal investigation can be carried out. Our unending dependence on foreign assistance makes us lose our drive to learn, work hard, and trust in ourselves.

Who then will do the examination, documentation, procurement of tissue samples that may aid in identifying the dead? Who will provide the freezers that Dr. Fortun asks for (Inguirer, 06/27/08, Uy, J.)—so that the NBI and medico-legal experts like her could do their job to the satisfaction of the grieving public? When will we get the central repository of remains and tissue samples of unidentified victims?

The main purpose of postmortem examination in the tragedy is to recognize the dead as quickly as possible so that their relatives can give them decent burial. Body retrieval and identification will help bring closure to the grief of loved ones. Necropsy is important in the prosecution of case(s) against the culpable. It’s vital in pursuing justice for the victims.

At this time, it is less important to know the victim’s circumstance and manner of dying, for without the ship’s sinking, all the passengers could be presumed alive to reach their destination. Most of those who perished probably drowned.

More than 20 years after I left UP-PGH, I doubt if precise identification could be done on many victims of Sulpicio Lines. An overwhelming number of decomposing bodies, in various stages of decay, at different sites in the islands, some drifting from the shipwreck have been found floating or washed to shore. It appears the manpower and forensic expertise to do a credible job on these bodies, are meager and inadequate. =0=

From The Underbush, Some Notable Numbers

June 25, 2008

P200,000
-Sulpicio Lines, the operator of the sunken Princess of the Sea, pegged the approximate insurance value (less than $4,000) of a dead victim’s life in the Philippines.

9 years
-The length of time it took Sulpicio Lines to know of the new guidelines on ship travel which was revised in June 27, 2007. Edgar Go, representing the ship company said they were not informed of the revision that could have avoided the sinking of the Princess of the Sea. =0=

P331.5 billion
The amount paid by the Philippine government (P133 billion in interest and P198.53 billion in principal) on maturing debts from January to May, 2008 according to the Department of Finance. As of April 2008, the country has a trade deficit of $531 million (approx. P24 billion.)

P100,000
-The monthly travel allowance of a Philippine congressman in trips, local and abroad. This taxpayer’s money could be the source of cash used by 59 representatives (1/4 of the entire Congress,) in accompanying Pres. Gloria M. Arroyo in USA on July 21 to 30, 2008, a junket which critics call “extravagant and insensitive.”
22%
The overall percentage of improvement in the National Achievement Test (NAT) for grade 6 Filipino public school students—from 43% in 2003 to 2008’s’s 65%; DepEd’s Jesli Lapus eyes a 75% mark by 2010.

1 month
-It took the media to correct the misleading news about the “lost Amazon” tribe, not having contact with civilization (mentioned in mesiamd’s blog on 05/31/08: “The stonehenge’s secret revealed, a lost Amazon tribe discovered…) The disclosure brings to recall similar hoaxes woven around indigenous forest-dwellers, like the Philippine Tasadays whose made-up secrets were revealed after Marcos was driven out of the country.

10 million
-The number of millionaires in the world with an asset of at least 1 million dollars; representing 1/5 of 1% of the world’s 6.7 billion people; a rise of 6% from 2006 to 2007; a third of these millionaires live in America.

24 million
-Center for Disease Control (CDC’s) estimate on the number of Americans afflicted with diabetes, representing 8% of the total US population; based on a 2007 data; another 57 million have deranged (prediabetic) sugar levels putting them at risk to have the disease.

$231,000
-The average home price in America. According to the US Department of Commerce, May 2008 home value dropped 5.7% from last year’s prices, dragging down the economy and firing fears of a recession.

12%
-Today’s percentage point advantage of Barack Obama against John McCain in the US presidential race. This double-digit (06/25/08) lead may not hold until November’s election.

$80,451,178
-The price of Claude Monet’s impressionist painting “Le bassin aux nymphéas,” or “Water Lily Pond,” an exquisite artwork auctioned off at a highest price so far by Christie’s in Europe (see photo by Lefteris Pitarakis, AP)

Recurrent Shipwrecks And The Horrific Maritime Record in the Philippines

June 24, 2008

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=