75th body found near Cordova-A A +A
Friday, August 23, 2013
FOUR bodies were recovered yesterday, six days after M/V St. Thomas Aquinas sank, after colliding with Sulpicio Express Siete.
The Incident Management Team (IMT) command post, in a bulletin, placed the total number of bodies recovered at 75 and missing persons at 45. The IMT said 750 out of the 870 passengers of M/V St. Thomas Aquinas of 2GO Travel survived, so far.
The IMT oversees the search, rescue and retrieval operations of last Friday’s collision. It uses the Talisay City Fish Port as its headquarters.
Meanwhile, the Board of Marine Inquiry (BMI) summoned the captains of the two vessels.
This, as Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III joined Kabataan Party-list Rep. Terry Ridon in calling on Congress to investigate the Cebu sea mishap and find ways to prevent a similar accident.
Aside from possible administrative and criminal liabilities, owners of the colliding ships may face charges for labor violations.
The BMI will convene at 9 a.m. at the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Central Visayas headquarters. It will determine the cause of the accident and how the crew performed before and during the incident.
Cordova Police Chief Julius Torreon Ompad said the last body was found yesterday near Gapas-Gapas Islet around 4 p.m.
Cordova Councilor Roque Yburran reported the sighting of the body, which was in an advanced state of decomposition, to authorities. The body was turned over to the IMT command post.
As of yesterday, Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III said there were seven survivors confined at the Perpetual Succour Hospital, 10 at Chong Hua Hospital and five at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center.
There are 82 survivors staying at the Sugbutel.
PCG 7 District Commodore William Melad said the search and rescue operations will continue until all passengers of M/V St. Thomas Aquinas have been accounted for and there are no longer any bodies inside the passenger vessel.
The BMI, headed by Commodore Gilbert Rueras, head of PCG Maritime Services Command, arrived in Cebu yesterday.
It also summoned some passengers and crew of the two vessels.
During a meeting with Davide and the IMT, Melad assured that the captains of the two vessels are under the custody of their shipping companies, which gave a verbal commitment that the two boat officials will be available during the investigation.
Melad said that pending the BMI investigation, authorities are not certain which vessel erred, resulting in the collision.
“Although yung isang barko yung nakabangga, hindi rin natin pwedeng sabihin na sya ang may kasalanan (One vessel hit the other but we cannot make determine who is guilty based solely on that),” he said.
The Maritime Industry Authority (Marina), on the other hand, will begin a series of hearings on the incident on Sept. 7 to determine criminal and administrative
liabilities of the two ships, and their seaworthiness.
In a statement, the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) said its Central Visayas regional office found possible violations of labor standards and occupational health and safety.
“Initial investigation showed that both ships have no health and safety committee or safety officers,” said Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz.
Because of this, she said it would be better if a more extensive probe would be conducted.
“We have yet to ascertain the extent of compliance or non-compliance with labor standards and occupational health and safety by the two ships,” said Baldoz.
In a related development, the Cordova Municipal Government began distributing rice and sardines to fisherfolk who cannot earn a living because of the oil that leaked out of the sunken M/V St. Thomas Aquinas.
Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office Chief Josefina Montebon said they will start the distribution of food in Barangay Catarman.
The town used the P1.6 million from its calamity fund to buy P600,000 worth of food for affected residents.
Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) 7 operations chief Shalaine Marie Lucero said they gave packed foods to families in Talisay City and Cordova who have been affected by the oil spill.
One member of each family listed by DSWD will also be employed under the department’s “cash for work program” for 10 days. Each will be paid P245 a day. (Sunnex)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 23, 2013.