What is so tragic is despite all these the Philippines seems to have the most disastrous civilian maritime accidents costing thousands of lives. All because of a government with misplaced priorities that instead of encouraging the development of its maritime industry the nation seems to have loss tract of its importance and neglected to develop a system to conform with international safety standards. A government so consumed by endemic corruption at the expense of risking the lives and safety of the poor population in the most risky transportation system when they could have done what makes sense.
The time has come for a thorough and exhaustive investigation to find the cause of the tragic sinking of M/V Princess of the Stars owned and operated by Sulpicio Lines, Inc and other maritime disasters to once and for all address the issue of safeguarding the lives of passengers. No, not the Tongressional probe but an honest to goodness study and assessment on efficiency and safety of maritime travel free from the influence of vested interest and corruption.
There is a time when we need to take a principled stand against a political system where patronage and personality type prevail where incompetence galore becomes the name of the game. The result of fraudulent electoral system produces politicians whose goal in life is shallow grandstanding with the end result of enacting bad laws regulating the maritime industry. We have so many agencies created to oversee the maritime industry filling it to the brim with their appointees instead of funding necessary equipments that are likely depleted due to corruption. These bad laws are badly enforced by what is possibly compromised government agencies in collusion with most of the shipping companies that are badly managed with the end result of major disasters costing hundreds if not thousands of lives like the tragic sinking of Doña Paz. So many agencies yet they can only inspect the shipping lines vessels visually once a year when they are docked becomes a ceremonial joke resulting in mind boggling major catastrophes.
Enough of the drama and grandstanding politicians, how many more lives should we lose to satisfy the greed and sheer callousness on the part of the owners and the government regulating body overseeing the maritime industry? Enough of the drama like what Butuan Bishop Juan De Dios Pueblos is peddling in Malacañang and the gullible public to broker in favor of the Sulpico Lines, Inc owners appealing for sympathy as if that is their only means of "livelihood." Yeah right tell that to North Cotabato Rep. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza citing a document gathered at the Securities and Exchange Commission that the company generated P5.74 billion in annual revenues in 2007. Definitely not peanuts if we go by the lying Bishop's word and clearly more than enough for the vultures to salivate like mad dogs in heat for a sinister takeover scheme.
It seems that corruption and incompetence may just turn out to be the biggest ally of Sulpicio Lines to weasel themselves out of their accountability and responsibility for the tragic sinking of their floating mass graveyards. A "good" development in the congressional hearing regarding the Weather Bureau known as Pag-Asa (Hope) despite the funds released by Congress in the amount of P149 million in 2005, P200 million in 2007 and P85 million in 2007, or a total of P434 million and still complaining they needed an additional P200 million when they have nothing to show for the millions released to them dating back to 2005 makes them a good scapegoat. They just gave another ammo for the lawyers of Sulpicio Lines to blame them and now may just weasel themselves out of accountability and with the TRO they filed against BMI they may just prevail. Sad indeed and who do they think should investigate them anyway, themselves?
The moro-moro of pointing a blaming finger on each other is not going solve the problem. The problem is the endemic corruption, the greed of corrupt government officials with misplaced priority of lining their pockets than invest in infrastructure to make sea voyage safe and equipments needed to respond in a timely manner.
Unless and until we see a strong desire and political will for accountable good governance we are stuck in the muck of pathetic corrupt governance. We have seen enough disasters and to this day the latest of which is the M/V Princess of the Stars, the list of some of the biggest civilian maritime disasters below should have given us a coherent government policy and political will to safeguard the passengers’ safety and well being:
Dec. 20, 1987: In the world's worst peacetime shipping disaster, 4,340 people drown when the ferry Dona Paz collides with the tanker MT Victor in the . Philippines
- Oct. 1988: The Dona Marilyn ferry sinks in the central
during a typhoon, killing 250. Philippines
- Dec. 1994: A freighter slams the ferry
in Cebu City , drowning at least 34 and leaving more than 100 of about 600 passengers missing. Rescuers pluck about 450 people from the sea, many coated in the diesel oil disgorged as the ferry sank. Manila Bay
- Dec. 1995: Dozens are killed when the overloaded MV Kimelody Cristy catches fire off
, southwest of Fortune Island . Manila
- Feb. 1996: An overcrowded wooden ferry, ML Gretchen, capsizes close to shore of central
Negrosisland, killing 54, including 31 children, and leaving 12 missing. Aug. 15, 1997: The King Rogers, a sightseeing boat, sinks after being battered by strong winds and big waves, killing four Hong Kongtourists and 12 Filipinos. About 75 others are reporting missing.
- Sept. 1998: The Princess of the Orient ferry tilts in storm-whipped waters near Batangas province south of Manila, leaving 70 dead and 80 others missing.
- Dec. 1999: An overloaded MV Asia South Korea ferry sinks in the central
, killing at least 51 people, including several Nepalese students. More than 700 others are rescued. Philippines
- April 2000: The wooden-hulled Annahada ferry capsizes shortly after leaving southern
, killing at least 87 people. Dozens of others are reported missing. Jolo Island
- April 2002: Wind-swept flames engulf a packed inter-island ferry in the central
, killing at least 23 and sparking panic among its 290 passengers and crew, some still waking up at the end of a 12-hour overnight trip. More than 90 are injured and 13 reported missing. Philippines
- Feb. 2004: A bomb believed to have been planted by al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf extremists explode aboard the Superferry 14 near
, igniting an inferno that kills 116 people in Manila Bay Southeast Asia's second-worst terrorist attack. June 21, 2008: The MV Princess of the Stars, a 23,824-ton ferry, capsizes off central in a typhoon. Villagers find six bodies, while only four survivors are found in the initial hours of search efforts. Sibuyan Island
Unfortunately all we are seeing are nothing but hollow political stance of "toughness" that amounts to mere sound bytes signifying nothing but more misery and grief for the relatives of the victims and others to come.
The absence of P&I insurance and the governments' inability to legislate or promulgate laws requiring maritime industry to take liability insurance speaks volume on how the leaders of the country treat their subjects, dispensable and not worthy of protection. The problem is clearly not because Sulpicio Lines are not required to take the insurance but the insurance agency’s refusal to cover their shipping lines with said insurance is an indication that their vessels are high risk and more likely a liability once they sail for the seas.
Had there been a P&I insurance which is similar to a car third party liability insurance the M/V Princess of the Stars or any vessel in the maritime industry would have been more safe and seaworthy. Not only did the victims loss a lot of money in the process in which Sulpicio Lines' executives are dangling P200K as if they are being extravagant, but the government as well. So callous and cold when it truth and in fact it was Oriental Assurance that is paying up the P200K and not a single cent coming from their pockets. The government will have to cough up with their meager resources to salvage the wreck at sea for the company's lack of P&I insurance that would have covered the cleaning up if they were properly insured.
Adding insult to injury in the most crass and cold manner Sulpicio Lines have the gall to announce that only those whose name appear on the manifest are entitled to the P200K. Those who are not in the manifest paid their fare just like any on those on the manifest list but they are further victimized by the denying their existence. The passengers not in the manifest only shows the crookedness of the shipping industry in hiding their criminal overloading of the ship and due to the tightwad profit hungry owners will not shell out their own money to pay the victims as insurance company will not cover what in paper does not exist. The sad part is most of those not in the manifest are children and they are the most vulnerable to perish in a sea mishap.
In a nation that has no concept or clue on disclosure those passengers who perished in the tragic maritime accidents became players in a deadly Russian roulette by the sea without even knowing if the vessel they were on are seaworthy. They are the unknowing participants while the owners and government regulators watch on the sidelines in the comforts of their office and mansions betting on the lives of unknowing people.
As if to make matters than it is, there has been no credible maritime investigation conducted in all these maritime disasters in the country despite the highly published so-called "probes." Maybe it will be different this time around having Neil Ferrer a Filipino elected as the secretary general recently of the IMO (International Maritime organization)
If you believe that Sulpicio Lines, Inc owners are responsible and accountable then join the BLOGSWARM. If you believe that greed and corruption causes moral degradation and ultimately kills our people, then join the BLOGSWARM. Of course the BLOGSWARM to Stop Sulpicio Lines Floating Mass Graveyard will not be complete if we don't include this........
No to Government Takeover of SLI! Justice for all the Victims of Philippine Maritime Disasters now! Hold everyone responsible for the floating coffins in slaughtering of poor Filipinos accountable! Demand the Shipping lines to abide by the International Maritime Organizations safety and liability standards!
For inquiries on the status of passengers Sulpicio Lines has uploaded the passenger manifest, updated list of survivors and crew list, send inquiries via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call their Manila Hot line at (02) 242-4258, (02) 474-5205 (02) Cebu (032) 5162728 Mobile 09174228344, 09174228339
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