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Philippine Govt Orders MV "Stars" Disaster Inquiry

By Marian M. Galang

House to pinpoint responsibility over MV "stars" disaster

Manila, June 29 (PNA) -- House Speaker Prospero C. Nograles on Sunday ordered a marathon inquiry to get to the bottom of the circumstances that lead to the capsizing of the MV Princes of the Stars at the height of tropical cyclone "Frank."

At the same time, he warned that the domestic maritime industry will continue to be hounded by the sea disasters that claimed the lives of thousands of Filipinos, for as long as there is no clear and absolute resolve to punish those who should be held accountable for such unnecessary loss of human life.

Nograles noted that the incident, the fourth passenger ship involving a vessel owned by Sulpicio Lines, may not be the last of the country's maritime disasters if shipping vessel operators, maritime regulators and law enforcement agencies will just be back to "business as usual" soon after the issue has gone away.

The Speaker insisted that the government should now see to it that everyone who is responsible for the MV Princess tragedy will be punished for their negligence and outright disregard for the safety of passengers.

"Their negligence and outright disregard for the safety of passengers because of greed for profit has caused immeasurable pain for the love ones of those who perished in MV Princess of the Stars.

'Heads should roll and those govt officials and agencies who will be found negligent in supervision and command responsibility must answer, together with the ship owners," Nograles said.

"The House will not let this issue fade away. That's why I ordered the House transport committee Chaired by Congressman Monico Puentebella to investigate incident as soon as possible, in marathon sessions and to throw the book at those who appear to be responsible including Department of Transportation officials," he added.

Apart from looking at the culpability of maritime authorities, transportation officials and the management of Sulpicio Lines, Nograles said that the inquiry should be also focus at instituting legislations that will strengthen the country's present maritime laws.

He said that Congress must undertake an immediate comprehensive review of the country's maritime policies and laws to "stop the never-ending cycle of sea tragedies" as he noted that more than 5,000 innocent lives have already been claimed by these disasters in the last 21 years.

The world's most horrifying peacetime shipping tragedy killed at least 4,340 when the ferry Doña Paz collided with the tanker MT Vector in the Tablas Strait, between the islands of Mindoro and Tablas.

Eight months later, another ferry -- Doña Marilyn - sunk off Leyte during a typhoon, killing some 250 passengers.

Between the years 1990 and 1999, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG)'s account had a total of 1,825 maritime accidents; averaging 182 reported cases per year.

Nograles said that, once and for all, policies and laws concerning maritime transport and port operations must be consolidated, including the licensure and training of maritime captains and personnel - even government maritime officials and personnel.

"Safety should be a prime consideration for policy makers and policy implementers," the Speaker said.




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