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MARINA starts probe into deadly Basilan ferry fire

The Maritime Industry Authority  on Friday said it has launched a marine safety investigation into the fire on MV Lady Mary Joy 3 off Basilan that left 29 people dead.

“Pursuant to the directive of MARINA Administrator Atty. Hernani Fabia under Special Order No. 364-23, our Enforcement Service has commenced the marine safety investigation of MV Lady Mary Joy 3,” it said in a statement.

MARINA directed its personnel to conduct surveys on all vessels operated by the concerned company, Aleson Shipping Lines, as well as intensified monitoring for all vessels in the country.

Aside from this, MARINA also ordered Aleson Shipping Lines Inc. to “attend, and extend assistance to the victims of the fire, help the survivors who needed medical attention, financial and whatever assistance to families of those who lost their loved ones.”

MARINA has been coordinating with different agencies for information gathering, and search and rescue (SAR) operations in connection with the tragedy.

“The MARINA expresses its deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of those affected by the recent maritime incident involving MV "Lady Mary Joy 3" in Basilan on 29 March 2023,” it said.

GMA News Online has sought a comment from the Aleson Shipping Lines Inc. but the company has yet to respond as of writing.

An inaccurate manifest is making it difficult for authorities to conduct search, rescue, and retrieval operations on the vessel, according to Mayor Arsina Kahing-Nanoh of Hadji Muhtamad, Basilan.

"'Yan 'yung magiging challenges natin, isa sa mga challenges ng search and rescue or retrieval po sa insidente na to kasi 'yung manifest po kasi hindi nasusunod," she said.

(That is one of the challenges in the search and rescue or retrieval operations in this incident, because the manifest was inaccurate.)

"'Yung manifest po na record ng Coast Guard is nasa 205 lang po. 'Yung na-rescue na po is nasa 195, iba 'yung mga namatay, so hindi po talaga nagma-match po," she added.

(The manifest obtained by the Coast Guard indicated that there were only 205 passengers. The number of rescued people was 195, excluding the number of fatalities, so the numbers don't add up.)

For Kahing-Nanoh, someone should be held liable for the tragic fire incident.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said a total of 252 individuals were affected during the fire including 205 passengers, 35 crew members, eight personnel from the Army, and four from PCG.

There were 216 survivors and 29 people perished in the sea tragedy,  including 11 whose remains have been identified (drowned at sea), while 18 (burned on board the vessel) still need DNA testing.

Seven people were still missing.

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 declared fire out at 7:30 a.m. on March 30.

To save the passengers, the captain brought the vessel to Baluk-Maluk Island in Hadji Muhtamad town.

The PCG earlier said the fire supposedly started in the accommodation area on the second deck of the vessel. —LBG, GMA Integrated News