Iloilo-Guimaras sea tragedy prompts probe on boat design


Posted at Aug 06 2019 07:55 AM | Updated as of Aug 06 2019 08:14 AM

Rescuers retrieve a body from one of the ferries which capsized in the central Philippines at a port in Iloilo City, Philippines, August 4, 2019. Dumangas Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office/Reuters

MANILA - The design of boats plying the Iloilo-Guimaras Strait should be examined after 3 ferries sank there over the weekend, leaving at least 28 dead, a Philippine Coast Guard official said Tuesday. 

The 3 motorized, wooden-hulled boats overturned due to squalls or sudden violent winds, the PCG earlier said, citing witness accounts. 

"Sa lupa, pini-phaseout na natin ang jeepney. Ngayon ang mga sasakyang pandagat dito sa Iloilo-Guimaras, traditional wooden na de-katig na bangka. 'Yung disenyo ng kaniyang bangka na 'pag may biglaang subasko, bakit nagiging very vulnerable s'ya?" said PCG-Western Visayas district commander Commodore Allan Dela Vega. 

(In land, we are phasing out old jeepneys. Meanwhile, sea vessels here in Iloilo-Guimaras are still traditional, wooden boats with outriggers. What is it about the design that makes these boats very vulnerable when there are squalls?) 

The search continues for 6 people still missing. Their names were in the passengers' manifesto, but some of them may not have pushed through with the trip or had transferred to other boats, Dela Vega said. 

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The issue of whether or not boat passengers in the Iloilo-Guimaras Strait should wear life vests is the subject of a pending court case, noted the official. 

The Guimaras government in 2010 appealed to require passengers to only hold life jackets, instead of wearing these during the 30-minute trip, because many of them are office workers and the safety gear would rumple their clothes, said Dela Vega. 

Some of Saturday's fatalities, he added, were wearing life jackets and may have found it difficult to swim when they were pinned underneath the capsized boats. 

Scores of people die each year from ferry accidents in the Philippines, an archipelago of 7,100 islands with a poor record for maritime safety.