Sunday, September 06, 2009

Coast Guard sends oil-response crew to SuperFerry sinking site
09/06/2009 | 03:10 PM

The Philippine Coast Guard on Sunday sent a ship with oil-spill response capabilities to Zamboanga Peninsula, where a SuperFerry vessel listed and sank hours earlier.

Coast Guard commandant Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo said the ships have instructions to monitor the area where the SuperFerry 9 sank for any possible oil spill.

“Since she is traveling from General Santos City to Iloilo, there’s still some considerable amount of fuel on board. We have already sent out ships led by BRP Corregidor to undertake monitoring and oil spill response operations as necessary," Tamayo said in an interview on dzBB radio.

Meanwhile, the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) said a hole in the hull may have been the cause of the ship’s sinking.

In its report, NDCC said the ship listed 9.5 nautical miles west of Bonga Point in Siocon town in Zamboanga del Norte at about 4 a.m., “allegedly due to a hole in the hull."

The NDCC said the SuperFerry 9 had 847 passengers and 112 crew members on board.

On the other hand, Tamayo told government-run dzRB radio that as of 11:55 a.m., at least 88 people from the SuperFerry 9 remain unaccounted for.

He said the others have been accounted for, including 258 rescued by the “Ocean Integrity," 441 by SuperFerry 9’s sister ship “Myriad," and
171 by the Philippine Navy’s gunboat.

While Tamayo confirmed three fatalities from the vessel, Navy spokesman Lt. Col. Edgard Arevalo said a Navy ship recovered at least one more fatality.

SuperFerry 9 sank off Zamboanga Peninsula Sunday morning, hours after it began to list while en route from General Santos City to Iloilo.

Also, Arevalo said the ship’s captain, Jose Yap, is now in Navy custody, adding that the skipper was among those rescued and brought aboard Navy ship 116.

Initial investigation showed Yap gave the order to abandon ship at about 4 a.m.

‘Among best captains’

Andrew Deyto, SuperFerry assistant vice president for sales and marketing, said Yap had been one of Aboitiz Transport Systems’ “best captains."

“He has been with us for so many years, (he’s) one of our best captains around," Deyto said at a press conference.

Deyto also vouched for the safety of SuperFerry 9, saying it was the first ship to be awarded an International Safety Management (ISM) certificate in 1996.

He also said the vessel last went into dry-dock in June 2007, and its next drydock is due in the first quarter of 2010.

But only in May this year, over 900 passengers of SuperFerry 9 were left stranded off Camiguin province when the ship’s engine conked out.

In the meantime, Deyto said relatives of passengers can call Aboitiz at 5287000. He said they are still setting up hotlines in Iloilo and General Santos to accommodate passengers’ kin.

Palace's order

In MalacaƱang, meanwhile, deputy presidential spokesman Anthony Golez Jr. said President Arroyo ordered Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. to send military assets to rescue the passengers.

“Dahil sa utos ng pangulo kay Sec. Teodoro maraming nasalba at nakakatuwa naman dahil mabilis ang action ng Coast Guard, ng Navy at Air Force (Because of the president’s order to Teodoro, many lives were saved because of the quick action of the Coast Guard, Navy and Air Force)," he said on government-run dzRB radio.

Golez also said the Department of Social Welfare and Development is coordinating with the Office of the Civil Defense to help survivors and relatives.

He added the DSWD and Department of Health are instructed to give assistance immediately to the injured and to the relatives of the fatalities. - GMANews.TV

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