Due to the March 29 fire aboard the MV Lady Mary Joy 3, Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva said on Friday that he was filing a resolution seeking an inquiry into the Philippine Coast Guard's (PCG's) and the Maritime Industry Authority’s (MARINA's ) implementation of vessel seaworthiness regulations.
“With these tragic events, it seems that we are backsliding from the reforms in maritime safety," said Villanueva in a statement. "Thus, we will file a resolution to look into how the concerned agencies, especially the MARINA and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), are strictly enforcing rules on seaworthiness, safety requirements, and manning compliance of the vessel.”
The senator added that he was also inclined to inquire if the Department of Labor and Employment ensured that the maritime industry complied with the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Act.
GMA News Online had sought the PCG's and MARINA's reaction to Villanueva's comments, but neither had responded as of posting time.
Meanwhile, in a Viber message to reporters, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said there was a need to strictly enforce rules that ensure seaworthiness and compliance with safety standards of each vessel.
“Both MARINA and PCG are involved. I believe these two (seaworthiness and safety standards) are already well developed in their meaning, scope, and coverage and are governed by the well circulated and published issuances of the said government agencies,” said Pimentel.
“Hence all we really need is the strict enforcement of these rules. But if the content of the rules is already outdated then we also need to update or modernize the substantive rules,” he added.
Senator Jinggoy Estrada, on the other hand, called on MARINA to launch a “no-nonsense” probe on the latest sea tragedy involving the MV Lady Mary Joy 3, which caught fire late Wednesday evening in Basilan.
He also urged MARINA to be on guard in securing the seaworthiness of passengers as well as cargo vessels.
“This incident, as well as the sinking of tanker MT Princess Empress should serve as a wake-up call to the concerned authorities in coming up with needed mechanisms to prevent the recurrence of sea accidents,” he said.
“A Senate probe need not be conducted. What the public immediately needs is assurance of security of their safety from those tasked to oversee the operations of those in maritime transport,” Estrada added.
As of Thursday evening, the PCG said the number of fatalities in the MV Lady Mary Joy 3 fire had increased to 29.
There were 230 survivors from the ship fire, including the crew aboard the vessel.
Of the 29 remains, 11 had been identified while 18 are set to undergo DNA testing, PCG Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Commander Commodore Rejard Marfe said.
The PCG earlier said the fire allegedly started at the accommodation area on the second deck of the vessel.
MV Lady Mary Joy 3 was en route to Jolo, Sulu from Zamboanga City on March 29 when it caught fire at around 10:40 p.m. The blaze was put out at 7:30 a.m. on March 30.
Meanwhile, at the House of Representatives, House Natural Resources Chairperson and Cavite Representative Elipido Barzaga said that someone needed to be held accountable for the deaths of the 29 passengers of the MV Lady Mary Joy 3.
"Those who have been negligent should be held accountable for this accident because it could have been avoided if only they did their jobs,” Barzaga said in a statement.
He added that the PCG and MARINA needed to explain if the vessel was overloaded.
Mayor Arsina Kahing-Nanoh of Hadji Muhtamad, Basilan had said the ferry's manifest was inaccurate which made it difficult for authorities to conduct search, rescue and retrieval operations.
The mayor noted the Coast Guard's records showed there were only 205 passengers. However, 195 people were already rescued, excluding the number of those who died.
Like Senator Jinggoy Estrada, Barzaga also lamented that the Lady Mary Joy 3 ship fire took place in the wake of the February 28 sinking of the MT Princess Empress, which spilled 800,000 liters of fuel.
"We haven't even recovered yet from the oil spill incident and now, this happened. Here we go again," Barzaga added. — DVM, GMA Integrated News