THE House Committee on transportation is set to conduct an inquiry into the two recent maritime accidents once Congress resumes session, an official said.

“We’re scheduling another inquiry as soon as possible when Congress convenes. The inquiry will determine what more can be done to effectively prevent maritime accidents and save lives,” said panel chairman Bacolod Representative Monico Puentevella.

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Officials of companies involved in the accidents and officials of government maritime agencies will be invited to the hearing.

On Christmas Eve, MV Catalyn B smashed into fishing vessel F/V Anatalia off the coast in Cavite. Two days after (December 26), M/V Baleno 9 sank off Verde Island, Batangas.

The Bacolod lawmaker said the recent tragedies only prompted the need to enact the proposed Maritime Code of the Philippines into law more urgent.

“The immediate approval of the Maritime Code proposal on second and third reading is among the priorities of the House during the 14th Congress. We urge the Senate to similarly pass the measure now to expedite its enactment,” he added.

An earlier accident, the 2008 MV Princess of the Stars tragedy that left 800 dead, triggered the inquiry where the committee recommended the Maritime Code.

The proposed maritime code sought to criminalize maritime accidents that will prosecute not just erring shipmasters and crew but also negligent shipping company owners.

It likewise recommended to list maritime accidents under criminal negligence or reckless imprudence resulting to physical injuries and homicide.

The committee said the Philippine Maritime Code would upgrade the laws dealing with the registration of ships, maritime liens and ship mortgages, maritime fraud, accidents at sea and ship owner's liability, marine insurance, and dispute settlement in the form of arbitration.

The House of Representatives is set to resume session on January 18. (Angela Casauay/Sunnex)