46 Cebu sea tragedy victims laid to rest-A A +A
Thursday, September 26, 2013
CEBU CITY -- Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma presided over a mass for 46 casualties who were buried in the Carreta cemetery Wednesday, nearly six weeks after two ships collided off Talisay City.
Meanwhile, Cebu Governor Hilario Davide III recognized 35 groups that helped in the search, rescue and retrieval operations.
To prevent similar accidents, the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) said it will strictly require all vessels going in and out of Cebu to install an automatic identification system (AIS).
This, after the Cebu Ports Authority (CPA) said the installation of a vessel traffic monitoring and information system (VTMIS) in Cebu will take at least five years.
Marina’s move is in response to the collision between the M/V St. Thomas Aquinas and M/V Sulpicio Express Siete last Aug. 16 off Talisay City.
Appearing before the Cebu City Council in an executive session on Wednesday, Marina-Central Visayas Regional Director Nanette Dinopol said a circular is being prepared by their agency that will require all vessels to acquire the AIS.
Out of the 832 passengers of the Aquinas, 629 survived. As of Wednesday, 116 were confirmed dead.
There are still 21 individuals missing.
“Dili ta makalimot sa Aug. 16. (We will not forget Aug. 16.) The reality of an imperfect world is instilled in our memory,” said Archbishop Palma during the funeral mass.
The council called the executive session to find out what the maritime agencies are doing to keep travelers safe.
Dinopol said each AIS is said to cost P15,000 to P20,000, unlike the VTMS that costs millions.
The AIS is a tracking system that will determine the vessel’s position, location and speed, among others.
A VTMS, on the other hand, functions like the air traffic control system in airports. It monitors and guides vessels coming in or leaving the port.
At present, Dinopol told the council that only foreign vessels are required to have an AIS, on the assumption that local vessel crews are familiar with Cebu’s channels.
Marina’s move to require all vessels to have an AIS is supported by an official of the Naval Forces Central (Navforcen).
Navforcen Commander Commodore Reynaldo Yoma, a seafarer for almost 30 years, said an AIS is cheaper than the VTMS. He suggested that stations be established in the north and south entrances of Cebu to receive data from the AIS of the vessels.
Asked by Councilor Gerardo Carillo how long it would take to install a VTMIS in Cebu, CPA Harbor Master Jaybee Chiongson said it will take them at least five years.
Chiongson said the installation of a VTMIS is one of their plans for Cebu and they have formed a technical working group to study the matter.
PCG Cebu Station Commander Weniel Azcuna said that representatives of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) visited his office one week ago and said they wanted to install the VTMIS as soon as possible.
During Jica’s visit, Azcuna said, he was told they are planning to construct three radar towers for the VTMIS, one in Talisay, one near the Mactan Bridge and one in Bantolinao Cebu.
He said the only concern was that the Bantolinao property belongs to the Mactan Export Processing Zone Authority.
Jica, he said, is trying to identify other site for the third tower.
A VTMIS is already being used in the ports of Manila, Batangas and Corregidor, among others.
Nearly six weeks since the collision, the Philippine Coast Guard has announced that retrieval operations for the last 21 passengers stopped last Tuesday.
Station Commander Weniel Azcuna said 85 percent of the Aquinas has been explored. “The remaining 15 percent of the spaces are impossible to explore without risking the lives of the divers,” he said.
But some technical divers will remain in Cebu City and will be on call in case there is an opportunity to explore the vessel further.
For now, the PCG and other concerned agencies are clearing the collision site of sinker lines and dive lines to allow vessels to pass by the area within the week.
At the mass burial, Archbishop Palma commended government officials who worked to rescue passengers and sustain the retrieval operations.
“(We saw in the tragedy) the extent of human capacity. We hope that accidents like this will never happen again,” he said.
At the ceremony were Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella and city councilors; Talisay City Mayor Johnny de los Reyes; Undersecretary Benjie Martinez who represented Vice President Jejomar Binay; and Governor Davide.
SuperCat General Manager Boy Mondo expressed the shipping company’s gratitude to the church, government and private groups who helped the survivors and aided the rescue.
He noted there were numerous volunteers, including technical divers, shipping lines and hotel operators who provided temporary shelter to the survivors and victims’ relatives.
Mayor Rama acknowledged Talisay City Mayor de los Reyes’ efforts, as well as the continued work of Cebu City’s quick response team.
And to the grieving relatives present in the memorial mass, he said, “Lisod ang paghilak, labi na naa pa gipangita (Grief is difficult, especially for those who are still searching for their loved ones).”
Also on Wednesday, Protective Services Unit head Shalaine Lucero of the Department of Social Welfare and Development said an emergency employment program started in the 13 barangays affected by the oil spill.
She said there were 2,996 beneficiaries or families identified and a member of each family will help clean up the barangays.
Each family member who is listed as part of the program will receive P245 per day for the next 10 days.
Fishermen were among the first to help during the collision last Aug. 16, but no one from their community was present in yesterday’s recognition rites in the Capitol Social Hall.
“I’m sure there are still countless who, in their own little way, helped,” Governor Davide said. They have yet to be identified, he also said.
But all those who registered and volunteered to join the search and retrieval operations were present and heard the governor express the Province’s “sincere gratitude” for their efforts.
With Davide on stage, giving the certificates of recognition, were Navforcen Commander Reynaldo Yoma; Provincial Disaster and Risk-Reduction Management Council head Neil Sanchez; and CG Commander Weniel Azcuna.
Some Bantay Dagat volunteers from Medellin and Cebu City were recognized, apparently because they stayed to help even if they were told to wait a long time in the Talisay fish port.
“On behalf of the Cebuano people, thank you,” Governor Davide said. (PDF/BAP/OCP/With FMG/Sun.Star Cebu)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 26, 2013.