Jun 24

Philippines Ferry Disaster June 2008Dear Gloria, I just saw you on CNN, asking the US and the international community for helping the families and finding survivors of the latest ferry disaster, which hit the Philippines just 2 days ago.

The “MV Princess of the Stars” ran aground, capsized and sank just a mile off Sibuyan Island in heavy storms, caused by Typhoon Fengshen. A total of 864 people were aboard, with only about 57 rescued so far.

Why this is another sad event which causes thousands of family members to grieve for their loved ones lost; it was just another regrettable tragedy waiting to happen:

Of course it is easy now to blame the owner of ill-fated “Sulpicio Lines” – with a history of the 3 worst maritime disasters in the Philippines – or the port authorities, who came to late for the rescue, in the face of typhoon warnings which were out there for the last 7 days with flooding and landslides and hundreds of lives lost already.

The questions now are many manifold:

  • Why was the ferry allowed to leave port in the first place, despite typhoon Fengshen hitting the country with already hundreds of people dead or missing? It appears that the Ferry wasn’t covered by storm warnings, even though it was clear that the typhoon was crossing its path on the way to Cebu.
  • Why did the first call for help went to the ‘big brother’ – the US Navy instead of the Luzon Coast Guard?
  • Why weren’t rescue ships allowed to leave ports due to heavy weather, but the ferry had that clearance?
  • Where was the Coast Guard after all for the first 24 hours, when most people were rescued by local fishermen or made it to the shores on their own?
  • Why weren’t all passengers enlisted in the ships manifest?
  • If the 24 year old ferry is called the ‘gem’ of the ferry line, in what conditions are the other vessels of its fleet?
  • Why did the call to abandon ship came only 1 hour after the engines malfunctioned, cargo had shifted, the ferry was drawing water heavily and the vessel was already tilted to the side?
  • Why wasn’t the crew better prepared for rescue operations and left ship before taking care of passengers trapped inside the ship?

The main question remains:

Isn’t it about time to do your homework?

  • It’s not enough to cry for international help, this is a home-grown problem. Where is your Filipino pride in solving the underlying lingering issues?
  • Lax rules and regulations aren’t helping, you have to hold both the ship line and authorities responsible for their obvious mistakes. There is a pattern of companies getting away with small damages and a failure to prosecute and enforce existing rules. The Department of Justice regularly absolves involved companies of any wrongdoing or criminal liabilities, causing and manifesting a ‘devil may care’ or ‘don’t care at all’ attitude. What will you do that this doesn’t happen again?
  • It’s good that there are already talks about compensation of the victim’s families (even though they are currently laughable low and more than a slap in the faces of the victims), but how about executing costly consequences for those responsible as well? Isn’t it time to let those responsible pay a steeper price for their omissions, to set an example and better support the families who lost their breadwinners or loved ones?

The Philippines is a country in the hearts of many. It hurts to see the latest economical developments or the ongoing kidnapping issues (even journalists have to be bailed out with huge ransoms paid), when victims of avoidable disasters are put of with 200.000 Peso (about USD 4.400) per loved one lost.

So, if you are really ‘in control‘ Gloria, even when traveling the US, while back home disasters strike and hundreds of lives are lost, I hope you will make the right decisions, once you are back!

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written by Chris

6 Responses to “12 Questions for Gloria Arroyo in the light of the latest Philippine Ferry Disaster”

  1. shawnNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    that disaster was so bad… the captain of the ship was my friend’s father…HUHU

  2. marinNo Gravatar SLOVENIA Says:

    It really terrible what happened! And this 4400$ is just awful.

  3. CathyNo Gravatar SWITZERLAND Says:

    Well, this is not the first disaster Sulpicio lines had and unfortunately I don’t think it will be the last. In 1987, with the disaster that is Dona Paz, 4000 people died and they got away with it. After Dona Paz, 3 (or so) more ships that they owned sank and they still got away with it. I believe they will also get away with this one.

  4. manilenyaNo Gravatar CANADA Says:

    For all I know, Filipino pride is not practiced in the Philippine Government, sad to say but, it is :(

  5. GerryNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    For a country that is battered by two dozen typhoons each year, home to the world’s most active volcanoes and straddles major seismic faults, it’s unthinkable how the Philippines is woefully ill-equipped and ill-prepared for disasters.

    Really, it’s quite a miracle that the death toll each typhoon season does not reach the proportions we’ve seen in Myanmar.

    I shudder to think how many Filipinos’ lives will be lost if and when a major natural calamity strikes.

  6. MonNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    I agree with Manilenya.

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