Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade today directed maritime authorities to swiftly probe the sea mishap involving MV Mercraft 3 which sank between the waters of Quezon and Polilio Island last 21 December 2017.
Secretary Tugade likewise instructed Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to implement measures to prevent similar incidents.
"We want this latest incident of sea mishap be investigated on as quickly as soon as possible so we can immediately implement safety nets and preventive measures. Ensuring the safety and security of travellers must be our priority," Secretary Tugade said.
Based on initial reports from MARINA, the vessel sank due to heavy rains and strong winds caused by the bad weather.
Meanwhile, PCG Commodore Joel Garcia said that there was no overloading of the capsized vessel, which has an authorized capacity of 286 passengers. There were 251 passengers and seven crew members were on board the vessel when it sank.
Of the 251 passengers, 243 survived the incident, and were immediately brought to the Barangay Dinahican Village Hall in Quezon for immediate medical attention.
Six bodies were retrieved, while three remained unidentified as of this writing. The cadavers are currently kept at the Claro M. Recto Memorial District Hospital in Infanta, Quezon. Three more passengers are still missing.
Garcia noted that there was no breach of PCG circulars or protocol.
"There was no typhoon signal issued by Pagasa that may prompt d PCG to hold the departure of the vessel; the sea was moderately calm when the vessel left the port," he said.
For his part, MARINA Administrator Al Amaro said that MARINA will facilitate immediate determination of the cause of accident, in order to passenger safety while on sea travel, land to prevent similar incidents to happen in the future.
”Investigators coming from our Enforcement Service based in MARINA central office were dispatched to conduct in-depth investigation to determine the root causes of the accident so we can prevent the same to happen in the future. We follow the international maritime accident investigation model— one that is done without prejudice, does not apportion blame, and does not establish liability. This investigation does not establish legal or economic liability,” Amaro added.
Administrator Amaro likewise mentioned that burial assistance and hospital bills were already shouldered by the MV Mercraft 3 owner, on top of the insurance claim of the victims.
"The company is new and in fact they are the ones who immediately complied with our campaign to modernize their vessel in view of our rules to phase out wooden hulled boats," Administrator Amaro said.
Maritime authorities are set to come up with recommendations as soon as the ongoing investigation wraps up.