MANILA – Transportation and Communications Secretary Jun Abaya said one of the vessels involved in a deadly collision in Cebu Friday night may have violated the vessel traffic separation scheme implemented at sea.
According to Abaya, initial investigation showed that the cargo vessel, Sulpicio Express 7, rammed into the 2GO passenger vessel at a “very vulnerable point,” causing it to sink.
"Ang nangyari talaga diyan 'yung Sulpicio nabangga niya 'yung 2GO vessel on its starboard quarters... Tinamaan niya sa kanan, bandang likuran,” he said.
Abaya said parallel investigations will be conducted by the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) and the fact-finding body of the Board of Marine Inquiry.
Abaya said a total of 831 people were on board the passenger ship, 715 of whom were passengers while 116 were crew members.
A total of 629 have been rescued and 32 bodies have been recovered, as of 9 p.m., according to Commodore William Melad of the Philippine Coast Guard-Visayas.
The diving operations in the search and rescue of at least 171 passengers still missing in the sinking of MV St. Thomas Aquinas were suspended Saturday afternoon due to bad weather.
Abaya said the operations will resume Sunday morning.
“The stoppage of the diving operations is not because our divers are tired or there are no more divers. It is mainly due to weather. We are risking life having divers to go down at wala din silang nakikita. Hindi rin worth it,” Abaya said.
“I remember when we were doing this for [Interior and Local Government] Secretary [Jesse] Robredo a year ago, we were really praying that despite not seeing the aircraft, we were just hoping that he was able to swim, [would be] picked up by a fisherman and brought to Bicol. Those things could happen, we are not losing hope,” he added.
On August 18, 2012, the plane carrying Robredo, his aide and two pilots crashed into Masbate Sea. Only Robredo’s aide, Senior Insp. June Abrazado, survived the crash.
2GO, Sulpicio suspended
MARINA has suspended the operations of all ships owned by 2GO and Philippine Span Asia (formerly Sulpicio Lines).
MARINA Administrator Maximo Mejia said all ships, including those already at sea, will have to undergo an inspection before being allowed to depart.
“Many of these ships are still out at sea but the directive is for these ships to be subjected to immediate inspection as soon as they arrive in port and not cleared for departure until they pass the inspection,” Mejia said in a press conference on Saturday.
Mejia said the MARINA has been in touch with both companies, noting that the firms are “fully cooperative” in the search and rescue operations and in providing assistance to the survivors.
“2GO has been immediate in setting up its assistance teams, and provide financial relief to the victims of the tragedy. Philippine Span Asia has also been involved in the search and rescue operations,” he said.
Mejia said the certificates of both ships were in order and did not violate regulations.
However, Mejia said the firms will still have to explain and show cause why their certificates of public convenience shouldn’t be revoked.
The firms were given 72 hours to respond.
The Philippine Coast Guard, meanwhile, said technical divers will also be deployed to the area to investigate a possible oil spill.
“We received a report that the vessel was carrying 120,000 liters of bunker oil, 20,000 liters of lube oil and 20,000 liters of diesel oil,” said Rear Adm. Rodolfo Isorena.
Isorena said there are already signs of an oil slick in the area, but strong waves hampered authorities in laying out the oil spill boom.
Isorena said operations to contain possible marine pollution will also resume Sunday morning.
He added that 3 PCG vessels, 2 Philippine Navy gunboats and 2 tug boats are in the area to assist in the search and rescue operations.
He noted that surface search will continue, and only the diving operations are suspended.