Camotes execs to implement stricter sea safety measures
Since sea travel is necessary for residents of the Camotes group of islands, town mayors said they would be more vigilant and ensure that vessels are seaworthy and that safety measures are strictly implemented.
BACKSTORY: SUDDEN TRAGEDY
A day after the remains of 45 fatalities of the MB Kim Nirvana-B were brought back to Camotes for burial, Pilar Mayor Jesus “Jet” Fernandez Jr. , said all passengers will be asked to sign the manifest to guard against overloading and wear life vests.
“Mas strikto na ta karon, ato na gyod i-assess kon seaworthy ba na atong gisakyan aron dili na to mausab ang nahitabo (We will be stricter this time. We will thoroughly assess a vessel’s seaworthiness to make sure the incident is not repeated),” he added.
Poro Mayor Luciano Rama said he will make sure that the pump boats serving his town are seaworthy and the protocol on sea safety is followed before boats are cleared for travel.
Three pump boats ply routes from Poro municipality to Ormoc City, Danao City and Tudela.
Of the 61 passengers who perished when MB Kim Nirvana-B capsized off Ormoc City on July 2 43 were from Pilar town while 7 were from Tudela and 1 each from Poro and San Francisco. The bodies of 45 victims as well as 110 survivors and their relatives were brought home to Camotes on board the BRP Batangas on Sunday.
The flag remained at half-staff in Pilar yesterday as the town mourned its dead. Two of the fatalities were teachers: Sonia Moreno, principal of Pilar National High School; and Vanessa Borinaga, teacher of Don Filomeno Memorial National High School.
Fernandez said most of the survivors and families of the fatalities were angry and bent on filing murder charges against the boat owner and captain.
“That’s their prerogative. We will support them, especially when the results of the marine inquiry are out,” he said.
Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III flew to Camotes in a military chopper yesterday to condole with the victims’ families.
He said the provincial government will assist them in the legal action.
“We will assist them. We’ll ask the help of the IBP (Integrated Bar of the Philippines) or legal aid or volunteer lawyers. We’ll assist them if they want to pursue the cases against those found liable,” the governor said.
He said, however, that he will wait for the results of the investigation.
“Let’s wait for the findings. We can’t just pipoint a finger at anyone,” he said.
Davide said the province will provide burial assistance and shoulder the hospital bills. He was accompanied by Provincial Board Members Jude Thaddeus Sybico and Miguel Antonio Magpale of the 5th district.
The Cebu Provincial Board yesterday passed a resolution expressing condolence and sorrow for the families of the victims in Camotes.
Tudela Mayor Erwin Yu said blame should be heaped not only on the ship owner and crew, but also on government regulators who cleared the vessel despite being overloaded and approved the boat’s design.
He said overloading must stop, the boat’s design scrutinized and sea safety guidelines, like wearing of life vests, strictly implemented to ensure that the incident is not repeated and further loss of lives at sea is prevented.
MB Kim Nirvana-B was a double-deck wooden-hulled motorized outrigger. It capsized allegedly after boat captain Warren Oliverio made a sharp turn towards Camotes shortly after leaving Ormoc port. The maneuver allegedly caused the cargoes to fall and the boat to tip over.
Yu said the Philippine Coast Guard in Ormoc City can not escape responsibility in the accident.
“Being the regulatory body, naa gyod sila’y responsibility (they have responsibility). Dili na nila idat-og tanan sa tag-iya ug crew. Kon istrikto pa sila sa pag implement sa balaod, sila gyod unta’y mo-advise nga di molarga kay overloaded man (They can’t blame only the shipowner and crew. Had they been strict in implementing the laws, they shouldn’t have cleared the boat because it was overloaded),” Yu said.
Tudela Vice Mayor Greman “Jojo” Solante, for his part, said 9 survivors from Tudela blamed boat captain Warren Oliverio for allowing the sacks of cement and rice to be placed on the same deck as the passengers.
Solante also criticized the Coast Guard for allowing the boat to sail, with the passengers not wearing life vests.
“Why did the Ormoc Coast Guard not enforce the guidelines?” he said.
Tudela lost 11 residents, prompting the municipal council to place the town under a state of emergency yesterday.
This would allow the municipality to access P150,000 from its quick response fund and distribute on Wednesday P10,000 financial assistance each to the families of the fatalities and P3,000 for each survivor.
In Pilar, the mayor said the families of the fatalities will also get cash assistance of P10,000 each while survivors will receive P2,000 each.
The remains of 45 victims were brought home to Camotes last Sunday on board the BRP Batangas, which also carried 110 survivors and their relatives.
Of the 45 remains, 36 were from Pilar, 7 from Tudela, and 1 each from Poro and San Francisco.
The vessel first stopped in Pilar, where the remains of 36 victims were unloaded, and proceeded to Tudela port to unload the 9 other caskets.
As in Pilar, the vessel could not dock at the port in Tudela because of shallow waters. The caskets were transferred to a bamboo raft that brought the bodies to shore.
Unloading lasted from 10pm on Sunday up to 3 am on Monday.
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