Valenzuela City Congressman Win Gatchalian today urged the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to tighten their inspection and seaworthiness evaluation of maritime vessels after a motorized banca capsized off Ormoc City on Thursday, killing at least 39 individuals.
Gatchalian, who is a member of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), said passengers are sometimes only made to wear life vests just before reaching their destination just to show compliance with the Coast Guard. In other instances, no life vests are available to passengers.
“The PCG should make sure that there are enough life vests for all passengers and crew and that all those aboard wear such safety gear all throughout the trip,” said Gatchalian, a member of the Board of Governors of Red Cross and is the organization’s lifetime honorary chairperson for the Valenzuela City.
The two-term lawmaker also pointed out the PCG should ensure that vessels do not carry weight that is beyond their capacity, considering the weight of all the passengers, crew, land vehicles, and shipments.
“The PCG should be strict and impartial in implementing the no-overloading rule,” he said. “The vessels should also be made of sturdy materials and should not be too old to venture out to the sea.”
Gatchalian also offered his condolences to the families of the victims.
“We offer our prayers for those who have lost their dear family members in this tragedy,” he said.
The recent tragedy has left 18 people missing as of Friday morning, while 124 passengers has been rescued, based on news reports.
An initial probe pinned the blame on human error after the wooden vessel made a sharp right turn soon after leaving the port in Leyte. Panicked passengers reportedly crowded the ferry’s right side, causing it to tilt before capsizing.
The ferry was also carrying cement but “didn’t appear to be overloaded,” said PCG spokesperson Commander Armand Balilo.
Thursday’s Ormoc Sea tragedy increased the country’s “notoriously poor record for maritime safety” to 21 sea mishaps since 1980.
The Philippines holds the title of having the world’s worst peacetime shipping disaster after the Dona Paz collided with an oil tanker off Mindoro Island in December 1987, killing 4,375 ferry passengers and 11 crew members of the tanker Vector. (Monica Cantilero)