MANILA -- Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Eastern Visayas District Commander Capt. Pedro Tinampay has been relieved from his post, following the accident involving mb Kim Nirvana-B in the waters off Ormoc City last week.

Commander Armando Balilo, PCG Public Affairs chief, said PCG Commandant Admiral Rodolfo Isorena issued the order last Tuesday afternoon, following the death of 62 persons after the vessel capsized near the Ormoc Terminal last Thursday due to overloading of passengers and cargos.

Tinampay, for his part, confirmed his relief. He was replaced by Capt. William Isaga, pending the result of the investigation on the tragedy.

Tinampay said he is willing to face any investigation, adding that it’s part of the job.

He said he had ordered his staff not to approve the release of any vessel found violating maritime laws.

SOP

“It’s part of our standard operating procedures. Since may investigation na ongoing ngayon (there’s an ongoing investigation), Captain Tinampay was relieved temporarily as Eastern Visayas chief,” said Balilo.

A fact-finding board from the Maritime Safety Service Command under Rear Admiral Luis Tuason Jr. is behind the probe to determine the real cause of the tragic accident.

Balilo earlier admitted that the number of passengers exceeded the actual capacity load of the vessel since it could only accommodate up to 178 persons.

The PCG official said that only 173 persons were listed on the passenger manifest submitted to them by ship captain Warren Oliverio. He said that aside from the passengers, 16 crew members were also on board the vessel.

Balilo said the actual count of survivors and casualties didn’t match and exceeded those listed on the passenger manifest.

He said the maritime law enforcement agency will not tolerate anyone, including their own officials and personnel, from liabilities if the investigation will later conclude that there were lapses among their ranks.

“Definitely wala tayong sasantuhin, kung sa amin ang may mali (There will be no sacred cows even if our men are found to be at fault), well, cases will be definitely filed, particularly those who are in-charge, especially the boarding team,” he said.

Allegations

Earlier, Coast Guard Station Ormoc City Commander Lt. Senior Grade John Anasco and two members of the vessel boarding team--Seaman second-class Fidel Blanco and Apprentice Seaman Jonas Sabado--were relieved after the incident.

Blanco and Sabado allegedly allowed the vessel to depart despite being overloaded.

Balilo said the vessel was carrying 160 sacks of cement, not 80 sacks that were declared on the manifest.

Meanwhile, the House committee on transportation will conduct its own probe.

Earlier, Leyte Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez filed Resolution 2206, calling on the House panel to conduct an immediate and thorough investigation.

Gomez said the House must conduct its own inquiry not only in aid of legislation, but “to obviate any doubt on the integrity of the findings of the maritime casualty investigation team constituted by the PCG, considering that probable lapses of its own units might be the very focal point of the investigation.”

She also noted that the “budget of the PCG for the current year included billions of pesos, a huge portion of which is intended for the conduct of safety inspections of sea vessels and the reduction of sea mishaps, a fact which puts in doubt the sound fiscal and operational management of the agency.”

Yesterday, the body of a one-year-old Ritchie Luchavez of Pilar, Camotes was found on the site where mb Kim Nirvana-B capsized.

Based on the actual tally of casualties and survivors, a total of 201 passengers and crew were aboard the passenger boat during the incident. Some 140 survived, while 62 were confirmed dead. (John Carlo Cahinhinan of Sunnex/JDP of Superbalita)