Maritime tragedies mark year 2013
Manila, Philippines – The Philippines has a long history of sea mishaps. It has kept this sad tradition in 2013 with another maritime disaster that took place in the vicinity of Lawis Ledge, known as a disaster-prone area in Talisay City, Cebu.
It was the top news story of 2013 on maritime incidents followed by the grounding by the USS Guardian and Chinese fishing boat Ming Long Yu in the Tubbataha Reef and the shooting incident in Balintang Channel.
The M/V St. Thomas Aquinas sank when it collided with the cargo ship, M/V Sulpicio Express 7, with greater loss of lives at sea. There are still bodies trapped inside the sunken ship.
The cargo ship, owned by Philippine Span Asian Carrier Corp. (PSACC), formerly Sulpicio Lines, did not sink, but its bow cracked open as a result of the collision.
The collision happened in calm waters on Aug. 16 in which no one was prepared for such a major disaster. The sea mishap the narrow strait is a dangerous area for ships.
Before the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) terminated the search and retrieval operations, 116 bodies were found and the number of survivors remained steady at 733. Twenty-one individuals remain unaccounted for.
On board the ill-fated ship were 870 passengers and crew while the cargo ship had 36 crewmembers.
The passenger ship came from Butuan and was headed to Cebu while the cargo ship was coming out of Cebu and was proceeding to Davao when the incident happened.
The two captains – Rolito Gilo of Sulpicio Express Siete and Reynan Bermejo of M/V St. Thomas Aquinas – blame each other for the sea mishap.
A parallel probe of the collision by the Special Board of Marine Inquiry (SBMI) and Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) is ongoing and will determine how these ships were not able to avoid each other in Lawis Ledge.
The Philippine government’s mettle was tested when two foreign vessels run aground at the Tubbataha Reef, a Unesco World Heritage site known for its marine life, in January and in April.
The USS Guardian inflicted damage on the section of the coral reef and the U.S. Navy later said the crew and faulty navigational aids were to blame for the grounding.
President Benigno Aquino III demanded the U.S. to answer for the damage and for removing the vessel with out further harming the reef.
The U.S, in return, responded positively and agreed to dismantle the Navy ship from the bow, the deck, the funnel and other parts of the ship until it was removed off the reef.
MING LONG YU
The PCG had to deal with the grounding of a Chinese fishing boat on the northern atoll of Tubbataha Reef.
The vessel was carrying 12 Chinese crewmen.
Personnel of PCG found 400 boxes loaded with pangolins inside the cargo hold of Ming Long Yu when they conducted an inspection on the 48-meter vessel.
“The pangolins were already processed. These were skinless like a dressed chicken,” Commodore Enrico Efren Evangelista, head of PCG Palawan district.
The government took swift legal action against the Chinese fishermen, charging them with poaching and other violations of the marine park’s rules.
On May 9, a shooting incident took place involving patrolling personnel of the PCG and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) on board MCS-3001 and a Taiwanese fishing vessel Guang Ta Hsin-28 at Balintang Channel near the Batanes group of islands.
The incident resulted in the death of Hung Shih-cheng.
Eight PCG men, Commander Arnold de la Cruz, Petty Officer 2 Richard Fernandez Corpuz, Seaman 2nd Class Nicky Reynold Aurello, Seamen 1st Class Edrando Quiapo Aguila, Mhelvin Bendo, Andy Gibb Ronario Golfo, Sunny Galang Masangcay, and Henry Baco Solomon are facing homicide charges filed by NBI.
In its report, the NBI said indiscriminate firing using high-powered guns showed “a common design to disregard the rules of engagement.”