Barajan on MV Siargao Princess crew: ‘They left us’
CEBU CITY, Philippines —— None of the crew helped in keeping the 58 passengers of MV Siargao Princess safe during the sea tragedy last Thursday, November 7.
This was how Seaman First Class (SN 1) Ralph Barajan remembered the two-hour struggle that he and the other passengers faced when strong waves filled and capsized the vessel.
“Pagstart na pumapasok na yung tubig, walang crew na tumutulong sa amin kaya I took the initiative na palipatin yung mga pasahero backwards kasi basa na sila. Basa na yung mga gamit nila, delikado na,”Barajan recounted in an interview on Monday, November 11.
(When the water started getting in the ship, none of the crew helped us. That was why I took the initiative of making the passengers transfer at the back because they were already wet, their things were already wet and it was already dangerous.)
Barajan, an off-duty Coast Guard assigned in the Coast Guard Southern Cebu Station in Oslob, was responsible for keeping his co-passengers calm and to stay together in the water while awaiting rescue.
“Ayoko lang talaga na may mamatay. Ayokong may mamatay sa harapan ko kasi hindi ko kakayanin,” Barajan said.
(I just did not want anyone to die. I couldn’t bear if someone died in front of me.)
Aside from the crew’s “lapses” during the actual sea tragedy, Barajan also pointed out that there was no demonstration on how to wear the life vests before the ship sailed from Loon, Bohol.
Because of this, Barajan said there were some passengers who wrongly wore the life vests and had difficulty when they already abandoned the ship.
He added that the ship’s captain also refused to immediately declare to abandon the ship even though the vessel was already heavily tilted and about to capsize.
Barajan said if they abandoned ship later, fatalities would have been inevitable.
“If nadelay? Meron talagang [mamamatay] kasi nasa loob pa kami. Walang nagco-communicate between passengers and ni Kapitan. Si Kapitan hindi mo na rin makakausap ng maayos yan eh,” Barajan said.
(If it would have been delayed? There would have been casualties because we were still inside. The captain did not communicate with the passengers and he was not talking coherently.)
“Pag-akyat ko sa taas para kausapin si Kapitan, nag-aaway-away pa sila. Yung iba sinasabi na ‘Tara na, umalis na tayo.’ Yung iba sinasabi na ‘Idikit mo na doon sa mangrove area para walang mamatay.’ Si kapitan ang sabi ‘Hindi, parating na yung rescue. Kaya to,'” he added.
(When I went up to where the captain was, I saw the captain and the crew arguing. There were those who said ‘Let’s go. Let’s abandon ship.’ Some of the crewmen told the captain to bring the ship nearer to the mangrove so that nobody would die. But the captain said no rescuers will come and we can do handle this.)
It was him, Barajan said, who insisted that they needed to jump off the troubled ship.
“Walang tumulong sa akin. Tumulong lang sila noong nasa dagat na kami. Lahat kami nasa life raft na. Yung crew at si Kapitan, may sarili silang life raft. Ang ginawa ko, malayo na kami eh, sabi ko maghiwawalay kayo (crew). Isang crew, isang life raft basta samahan niyo,” Barajan said as he recalled that he, too, was losing energy when they were already floating.
(None of the crew helped us. They only helped us when we were all in the water. We were all in life rafts. The crew and the captain had their own life raft. So I told the crew and the captain to have someone in the different life rafts. One crewman for each life raft. They should make sure to accompany the passengers in each life raft.)
Lieutenant Junior Grade Michael John Encina, spokesperson of the Philippine Coast Guard in Central Visayas (PCG-7), said they had already launched a Marine Casualty Investigation (MCI) on the incident.
Encina said they would look into possible lapses on the part of the vessel’s crew and how to address them in order to ensure that such an incident would not occur again.
The sunken MV Siargao Princess is still about 50 meters underwater off Sibonga seas, but Encina assured that their personnel were regularly monitoring the area of the sunken ship.
Encina added that the vessel only had 60 liters of diesel and was not at risk for a possible oil spill because the engine had been sealed.
The Philippine Coast Guard has also issued a Mariner’s Notice to make all vessels plying the area aware that there is a sunken ship underwater.
Encina added that they would be asking the operator of MV Siargao Princess to haul it from the sinking site during their marine inquiry./dbs
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