MANILA - Police said Saturday that overloading may have caused a motorized passenger boat to capsize off the coast of Gumaca, Quezon on Friday, leaving at least three people dead.
In an interview on radio dzMM, provincial police director Sr. Supt. Eugene Paguirigan said MB Lady Aime had a carrying capacity of 50 passengers.
However, it was carrying 65 passengers, three crew members and the boat captain when it left the Salome Port in Barangay Villa Bota, Gumaca on Friday, he said.
"Ayon po sa initial investigation natin, ito ay lumubog sa kadahilanan na napakalakas ng alon at nagkaroon ng crack yung side ng isang bangka. Subalit sa isang banda po ay merong lumutang na impormasyon, na ang bangkang ito ay supposed to be mag-load lang ng below 50," said Paguirigan.
He said they are coordinating with the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to examine the boat's passenger manifest and identify possible violations of the boat's crew.
He added that the boat captain, Jon Navarrez, was among the rescued but went missing as authorities rushed survivors to the hospital.
Authorities are still searching for the boat captain, as of posting.
The Quezon, Quezon-bound boat returned to Gumaca after a hole was discovered at around 4 p.m. Friday. The boat, however, began sinking about 200 meters off Salome Port.
Paguirigan credited local fishermen for promptly rescuing the boat passengers and alerting authorities.
"Kung wala po sila roon, wala pong nakapagbigay alam at nagkaroon ng immediate response. Ang ating mga fishermen, kumbaga po sa pelikula, sila ang pinaka-bida sa rescue operations na ito," he said.
Paguirigan said the rescued passengers have since left the hospital.
The three fatalities have been identified as Isabela Mosedelare, Rosefel Oliveros and Susan Taaran.
The PCG has temporarily suspended trips of sea vessels in Gumaca due to rough sea conditions. - Report from Johnson Manabat, dzMM