By Alexandria San Juan
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade has relieved some officials from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) in Western Visayas following the Iloilo-Guimaras sea mishap that left at least 31 people dead.
Relieved from their posts were Coast Guard station commanders Perlita Cinco in Iloilo and Joe Luviz Mercurio in Guimaras, Chief Petty Officer Felixberto Salibio Jr., and Seaman First Class 1 Ricky John Mijares who were on duty at the time of the incidents.
Apart from the PCG officials, also relieved from their positions were Marina Regional Director for Western Visayas Rizal Victoria, and other officials from the agency, including Jose Vero Jr., Bernardo Pollo, and Juliet Nacion.
Tugade ordered their relief pending results of a “more thorough and impartial investigation” on the recent sea tragedy. He said the Department of Transportation (DOTr) will file necessary charges against the mentioned officials should the investigation found negligence on their part.
“I want them immediately relieved from their posts so we can give way to a more thorough and impartial investigation. If they are found negligent, we will make sure that necessary criminal charges will be filed against them,” Tugade said.
Three passenger boats – Chi-chi, Keziah, and Jenny Vince – capsized in the waters between Iloilo and Guimaras on Saturday, August 3, leaving 31 people dead.
The DOTr chief issued the directive on Tuesday during his visit to Guimaras to inspect various port facilities and to personally extend sympathies with the bereaved families of victims of the tragic sea accident.
He pledged to help provide qualified family members of the victims with employment to the Marina, PCG, and the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA).
Meanwhile, Tugade already directed Marina to fast track the release of permits of Ro-Ro vessels that will augment the ships plying Guimaras-Iloilo route while a suspension on wooden hull bancas are in place.
He underscored the need to modernize maritime vessels, including boats to further ensure the safety of sea passengers.
“The incident turned out to be a wake-up call on the need to modernize our boats. Modernization is not just for vehicles on the road but also for maritime vessels, especially passenger boats,” he added.