MANILA (4th UPDATE) - A ferry boat, battered by big waves, was sinking off the coast of San Ricardo, Southern Leyte on Saturday.
Southern Leyte Governor Roger Mercado said a Roll-on, Roll-off (RORO) ferry boat, Maharlika 2, was sinking between Southern Leyte and Surigao.
He said a rescue operation was ongoing but was being made difficult by huge waves.
The ship's official manifest listed 58 passengers and 26 crew members, but some reports said around 100 passengers were on board the boat.
As of posting, the passengers had abandoned the boat and were being rescued by another boat, Maharlika 4, and a foreign vessel, Mercado said.
Maharlika 2 left Lipata, Surigao City at around 2 p.m., bound for Liloan, Southern Leyte.
At around 4 p.m., the boat's captain reported a "steering casualty," which means it was experiencing difficulties in steering the boat.
By 4:30 p.m., the company had deployed another boat, Maharlika 4, for search and rescue operations.
Maharlika 4 has so far rescued around 13 passengers, while the foreign vessel has rescued around 50 passengers.
Mercado, in an interview on ANC on Saturday night, said 18 passengers have been rescued and brought to Southern Leyte.
He added the vessel's rudder was reported to have broken down, causing it to experience difficulties in maneuvering the ship.
Mercado is seeking assistance in rescuing some other passengers who may still be at sea.
No casualties have so far been reported.
In an interview with DZMM, Lt. Cdr. Armand Balilo confirmed that the vessel was dead on sea, and its passengers abandoned ship at around 9 p.m.
He added that the vessel was allowed to sail as there was no public storm warning raised over Southern Leyte and Surigao. However, it encountered mechanical difficulties, causing it to sink. -- with a report from Sharon Evite, ABS-CBN News Tacloban, and DZMM