By: Jennifer P. Rendon
INQUIRY into the tragic capsizing of three passenger boats in Iloilo Strait last Aug 3, 2019 commenced on Aug 5.
Commodore Allan Victor dela Vega, commander of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in Western Visayas, confirmed that a two-man team from PCG main office’s Marine Casualty Investigation Division arrived to conduct the investigation.
The probe is done automatically in cases of sea incidents, especially ones that involve loss of lives.
“They would conduct investigation on the incident and the root cause analysis,” dela Vega said.
And yes, even if he is the PCG regional commander, dela Vega will not be spared from the investigation.
“I’m also being investigated for command responsibility,” he said.
Part of the investigation would tackle possible liabilities of individuals both in the government or private sectors.
Some personnel of CGD-WV will also be investigated, even as they will act as resource persons of the probe.
Boat operators of the ill-fated motorbancas Keziah, Chi-Chi, and Jenny Vince and their crew members will also be called to the inquiry.
Dela Vega said PCG investigators are competent individuals and he trusts that they would also make recommendations to avert other marine incidents in the future.
Another point of discussion was the lack of suitability in the current design of pump boats to navigate squalls or pugada.
“I think everything would be looked into,” he said.
Meanwhile, dela Vega said that preventive suspension is always possible but did not elaborate further.
He said the result might come out in a week’s time.
The last maritime accident that happened in the same area was in 2015 involving M/B Tawash where nine persons died.
For dela Vega, the loss of lives, no matter the number, in a sea tragedy is always devastating.
Pointing the blame – in most cases, towards the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) – has been all too common.
“We’ve been to several sea incidents and we’re used to it,” he said.
Several netizens and ferry passengers on the Guimaras-Iloilo route bashed the PCG for allowing bancas to travel on Saturday afternoon despite the rough sea condition.
There were also reports that PCG personnel didn’t do their best to search for the third capsized boat that had passengers trapped inside.
Another one lamented the lack of equipment for search and rescue operations.
The complaints and criticisms were endless.
“It has always been that way and we can’t discount the emotions of the people,” dela Vega said.
He said people could blame the sudden change of weather or the existence of squall and their feelings are still valid.
“Let’s understand the feelings of the people but on the part of the Coast Guard, if there are lapses and liabilities we are strictly enforcing penalties for that,” he said.
As they are the convenient persons to blame, dela Vega said they just regard it as part of the job.
“What’s important for now is we’re attending to the needs of the victims and their families. We’re also working to find the remaining missing persons,” he said.