Monday, January 9, 2012

Because of Outrigger Death Traps

Tragedy in the merry month of May 
By Eliza Victoria Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:48:00 05/29/2010
 Filed Under: Maritime Accidents, Family, Tourism, Waterway & Maritime Transport

MANILA, Philippines

On May 23, 2009, Ramon Eugenio and his family climbed aboard the MB Commando 6, an outrigger boat that was to take them to Tamaraw Beach in Puerto Galera, Mindoro. It was the first family outing for the Eugenios, and all 13 members were looking forward to a summer getaway. Two days later, Ramon was sitting at the wake of his mother, his son and a nephew.

The boat left the Batangas Port at 11:15 a.m. on May 23, 2009, but it would never reach Mindoro. At 12:30 p.m., roughly 20 minutes from their destination, strong currents caused the boat to tilt on its right side. Passengers on the left side of the boat including Ramon, his mother, Daisy, his wife, Monica, his 3-year-old son, Franco, and his 2-year-old nephew Anton slid into the water and then the boat capsized.

The passengers had not been required to wear life vests before leaving port.

There were 12 fatalities in the tragedy, including Daisy, Franco and Anton.

The day after the tragedy, the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) temporarily suspended the licenses of Commando 6?s captain and diesel mechanic. It also suspended the license of its owner, Ilagan Shipping Lines Water Transport Co. Operating under new name

According to Marina?s Batangas Office, Ilagan Shipping Lines is no longer operating. However, Ramon Eugenio alleged in a phone interview on Tuesday that it is still operating, but now under a new name?New Gallerian Shipping Lines. No such company was listed under the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

A check with Marina's Batangas Office, however, revealed there is a company called Gallerian Shipping Lines. At press time, the Inquirer?s request for more information was still pending at Marina?s Batangas Office. Why it capsized On Oct. 28, 2009, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) reiterated the findings and conclusions of the Board of Marine Inquiry (BMI), saying that the ?proximate and immediate? causes of the capsizing of Commando 6 were: 1) Lack of skill on the part of the boat captain, or ignorance in boat handling and seamanship. 2) Lack of competence of the chief engineer and other crew members. 3) Loss of buoyancy that led to the boat?s poor stability. A recent check with the PCG revealed that its October 2009 decision was the last statement the agency released in connection with the Commando 6 tragedy. Ramon Eugenio said nothing had been resolved even after five marathon hearings conducted by the Senate blue ribbon committee under Sen. Richard Gordon. No action ?Kapag hindi sinisindak, hindi kumikilos (If there is no fear, there is no action),? he said, referring to the agencies Marina, BMI and the PCG. ?Frankly, I don?t think they really care. If the President?s daughter was on the boat, heads would have rolled by now.? A year after the tragedy, Ramon was still in shock. ?We?re still trying to make sense of what happened to us. It?s not sickness, it?s something completely unexpected. It involved two young kids,? he said. ?I always tell my friends that my son had so much promise. He solved the Rubik?s Cube when he was 2 1/2 years old. I couldn?t help but think that perhaps his reason for being here is to solve this problem. He died so young. He would have grown up to be a fine young man. What a pity. Justice is still a long way off,? he said in a mixture of English and Filipino. Apprehension Ramon?s wife, Monica, had recounted in a 2009 interview that she had apprehensions about the boat even before they left the port. ?Before we boarded, I asked the barker [if] the waters were choppy. He said it was [calm] and that the boat can carry 130 people. When I saw the boat, I didn?t think it could carry that many.? She had said that she counted 45 people on the vessel?s right side alone. Coast Guard officials said the 12-ton, 21-meter boat could carry only 42 passengers and six crew members. According to the Coast Guard, a total of 60 people were onboard. They took pictures Ramon had also recounted in 2009 news reports that as the Commando 6 was sinking, two boats passed by but did not even stop to help them. Instead, the passengers took pictures and videos of the sinking vessel. The rescue boats arrived 40 minutes after Commando 6 capsized. Worse, the boatmen attended to the passengers? possessions first, Ramon had alleged. ?They were getting the bags first ... We said, ?Are the bags more important than people??? All in all, 43 passengers were rescued. The boat?s crew members, including the captain, survived and reportedly went into hiding upon arrival at Puerto Galera. On May 25, 2009, while Daisy, Franco and Anton were lying in state, Commando 6?s four crew members?Ruel Bunquin (clearing officer), Renante Roma (chief engineer), Danilo Aranzado (crew) and Jonie Evangelista (crew)?submitted a sworn statement before the Batangas Coast Guard saying their vessel was at ?full capacity? when it left the port, and that they, along with boat captain Meliton Anilao, immediately tried to save their passengers when the boat overturned. (?Kami, kasama ang aming kapitan na si Meliton Anilao, ay kaagad na sinagip ang aming mga pasahero (We, namely, boat captain Meliton Anilao and the crew, immediately saved the passengers).? Overloading This was contradicted by survivor Janice Mahinay who said that when the boat tilted on its side, Anilao shouted ?Lulubog na (The boat is about to sink),? but failed to give instructions or assistance to the passengers. The Batangas Coast Guard?s initial investigation also revealed that Anilao waited several minutes before Commando 6 left the port so he could load more passengers since there were only eight people on board. On the other hand, Commando 7, which was supposed to leave the port an hour later, was asked to transfer all its 42 passengers to Commando 6. Chance passengers also boarded the already overcrowded vessel. Life is cheap Abdulla Perez, mother of Joena Perez, a 29-year-old telecommunications employee who died in the tragedy, had said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Online in 2009 that they received P22,000 from Ilagan Shipping Lines which paid for Joena?s burial expenses. Abdulla said the amount wasn?t enough to buy Joena a decent coffin. The Inquirer asked Ramon Eugenio on Tuesday if he had received any form of assistance from Ilagan Shipping Lines. Said Ramon: ?No.? He recalled reading about the P22,000 the Perezes received from the Ilagan Shipping Lines and made this comment: ?Ganon lang ba kamura ang buhay (Is life that cheap)?? He also described the system as ?demeaning.? ?You have to beg just to get financial assistance?that should be the last thing a person who has lost a loved one should worry about,? he said. Ban wooden vessels Ramon said he supports the banning of wooden vessels. ?It?s actually in the law.? According to the Revised Rules and Regulations of Republic Act No. 9295, or the Domestic Shipping Development Act of 2004, domestic ship owners and operators are required to undertake a ship modernization program where wooden vessels will no longer be allowed to operate after five years. A statement by the United Filipino Seafarers released in August 2009 slammed the Marina for still allowing ?the registration and continued operation of newly built wooden vessels, particularly motorized bancas.? Ramon said they?re hoping to find a politician who could sponsor their cause, so their voices could be heard in government. ?We won?t be riding on boats for a long time, so it?s not for us,? he said. ?We don?t want this [tragedy] to happen again. It?s very painful.?

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