CG ends probe on ship collision

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Monday, August 18, 2014

ANNIVERSARY. Talisay City officials, led by Councilor Danny Gaballero (center, in white shirt), offer candles and flowers at the site of the sinking of a ship following its collision with another vessel in Lawis Ledge last year. (Alex Badayos)


THE Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said the results of the investigation on the sinking of m/v St. Thomas Aquinas after colliding with another vessel last year will soon be out.

Commander Rodolfo Villajuan, PCG-Cebu City chief, told reporters yesterday the Special Board of Marine Inquiry (SBMI) handling the case is done with its investigation.

But authorities withheld more information on the matter as they are still giving the two shipping firms - 2GO Shipping and Philippine Span-Asia Carrier Corp (PSACC) - a chance to appeal the decision.

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Villajuan issued the statement a day after the first anniversary of the sinking of the m/v St. Thomas Aquinas last Aug. 16.

In another interview, PCG 7 Chief Commodore William Melad told Sun.Star Cebu that the SBMI ended its investigation last July.

Promulgation

Melad said the results of the investigation have been forwarded to the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) for formal promulgation.

Results of the investigation will be used as a reference for PCG in coming up with programs and plans for maritime safety.

But while he admitted that the SBMI’s work is merely a fact-finding inquiry on the incident, the results of the investigation could be used as a basis for the filing of civil and criminal charges against the shipping firms.

Melad, who was one of those who led the rescue and retrieval operations last year, said there were lessons to be learned from the incident.

Disasters

One lesson is that the PCG needs to establish a vessel traffic management system (VTMS) in Cebu to avoid disasters.

As of now, the bidding process to acquire a VTMS for Cebu is ongoing, Melad said.
Currently, two investigations are being conducted on the incident: one by the SBMI under the PCG, and the other by the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina).

Both investigating bodies have yet to release results of their queries.

Yesterday morning, officials of 2GO and PCG sailed to Lawis Ledge to offer prayers and flowers for those who died in the tragedy.

The collision claimed the lives of 116 passengers and crew members, with 21 others still missing.

Officials of 2GO said six surviving crewmen - including Aquinas ship captain Reynan Bermejo - have been serving a one-year suspension.

Reinstate

2GO Vice President Lito Salvio assured that once the case is resolved, they will reinstate the six men to their post.

Salvio said that even now, they still continue to assist the families of all victims of the tragedy.

A relative of three victims in the tragedy thanked 2GO for the continuing assitance.

Giovanni Emecio, whose great grandfather and two nephews perished in the incident, said they have recovered from the trauma.

Emecio and his family also offered prayers and flowers for those who died.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 19, 2014.

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