'Have we not learned anything?': Barzaga wants answers on 'Mary Joy' tragedy

At a glance

  • Cavite 4th district Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. (In photo) is angry over the MV Lady Mary Joy 3 tragedy and demands that maritime authorities be held accountable in they are proven remiss.

  • (Photo from Mark Balmores/ MANILA BULLETIN)

A fuming Cavite 4th district Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. is taking maritime authorities to task for the deaths of 29 passengers of MV Lady Mary Joy 3, which caught fire a few days ago off the waters of Basilan.

Barzaga said the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) ought to confirm whether or not the ill-fated vessel was overloaded since such has always been the case in previous maritime accidents.

"Have we not learned anything? What is Marina and the [PCG] doing now? Those who have been negligent should be held accountable for this accident because it could have been avoided if only they did their jobs," the veteran solon said in a statement Friday afternoon, March 31.

MV Lady Mary Joy 3 went up in flames on Wednesday night, March 29.

Barzaga said he can still distinctly remember the 2008 investigation of the House Committee on Transportation into the sinking of MV Princess of the Stars, which claimed the lives of over 800 people.

"And now, this tragedy in Basilan happened," said Barzaga, who chairs the Committee on Natural Resources.

He also lamented that the latest maritime incident happened in the wake of the sinking of motor tanker (MT) Princess Empress last Feb. 28 in the waters off Naujan, Oriental Mindoro which spilled 800,000 liters of industrialized fuel.

"We haven't even recovered yet from the oil spill incident and now, this happened. Here we go again," he said.

The enactment into law of the Maritime Code measure was among the transportation panel's recommendations following its inquiry into the "Princess" tragedy. The passenger ferry owned by Filipino shipping company Sulpicio Lines sank on June 21, 2008, off the coast of San Fernando, Romblon, at the height of typhoon "Frank".

"What is the Coast Guard doing? If there were so many passengers, did they not check if the vessel was overloaded? Secondly, is there already an action to stop the shipping line from operating its other ferries on account of this incident? Barzaga said.

Mayor Arsina Kahing-Nanoh of Hadji Muhtamad, Basilan has said the ferry's manifest was inaccurate which made it difficult for authorities to conduct search, rescue and retrieval operations.

She said the Coast Guard's record showed there were only 205 passengers. However, 195 people were already rescued, excluding the number of those who died, which means that the figures do not match.

Authorities are still looking into reports that the fire started from an airconditioning unit.