Coast Guard starts probe on ill-fated ferry

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews / 17 Sept) – Coast Guard officials from Manila have started to investigate the ill-fated marine vessel Maharlika 2.

The maritime investigation – spearheaded by Commodore Gilbert S. Rueras, commander of the Coast Guard’s Maritime Safety Services based in Manila – began Tuesday afternoon at the Lipata Port here, according to Noel M. Torralba, local substation commander of Philippine Coast Guard.

Rueras now sits as the chairman of the Special Board of Marine Inquiry on the sea mishap that happened Saturday evening off Pintuyan, Southern Leyte.

Reuras has summoned the crew of the ill-fated ship headed by ship skipper Juan Cuyago Tuesday afternoon.

The MV Maharlika 2, operated and managed by Philharbor Ferries and Port Services, Inc., left Lipata Port in Surigao City at11:30 a.m. last Saturday for Liloan, Southern Leyte.

But it sank in the evening, killing at least eight persons. A total of 110 persons were rescued while three are still missing, according to the incident command center at Lipata Port. The manifest list, however, showed only 58 passengers and 26 crew members.

The three missing persons are also those in the manifest list.

But Capt. Joseph Coyme, deputy district commander of the Philippine Coast Guard in Northern Mindanao, pointed out that there are more missing passengers who are not in the manifest list, as reported by relatives.

Coyme said, too, that there were actually 32 crew members who boarded the ship, not 26 as listed in the manifest.

Emmanuel B. Carpio, regional director of the Maritime Industry Authority who is part of the investigating body, told MindaNews that the crew of MV Maharlika has failed to submit an incident report on the sea mishap within the required 24-hour period.

He said that while he doesn’t want to pre-empt the investigation, for him the non-submission of report is a glaring violation.

Carpio said another obvious violation was failure to list all the passengers, including the drivers of the rolling cargoes.

Carpio said the special board of marine inquiry will also summon the other crew members and some survivors.

“The result of the board investigation will become the basis for the filing of both administrative and criminal charges,” Carpio said.

Though the search and retrieval operation has been called off, lawyer Manuel Coro, designate officer of the Surigao City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council, said they already issued advisories to the coastal communities all throughout Surigao del Norte, nearby islands and islets of Dinagat, including the southern part of Leyte, to continue monitoring the area.

A mass was held Wednesday morning at the Lipata Port, followed by floral offering for the souls of those who perished in the sea mishap.