Senators to probe if negligence, corruption led to capsized boat

(MANILA STANDARD) Senators are demanding accountability for the July 27 Laguna Lake capsizing in which 27 people died, with Senator Grace Poe saying the committee on public services which she chairs, is ready to conduct a probe to check if there was negligence or corruption involved.

She said the Senate investigation must shed light on crucial questions, such as why the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) allowed the motorboat to sail despite the strong winds and heavy rains.

She said the boat’s owner and the PCG should also explain why there were more passengers on the vessel than its allowed capacity. She said there were also reports that the passengers had no life vests.

At the same time, she asked the authorities to pursue a thorough and airtight investigation on the capsizing of a boat off the waters of Binangonan, Rizal to hold those responsible accountable.

“The probe should determine liability and mete out punishment forthose to blame,” Poe said.

Senator Jinggoy Estrada said those responsible for the sinking should be held accountable for their actions or inaction, which may have contributed to the tragedy.

“There must be full transparency in their conduct of a comprehensive and impartial inquiry into the incident,” Estrada said.

He said the latest sea tragedy should serve as a “wake up call” for authorities to thoroughly look into the safety protocols and enforcement measures to avoid a recurrence of this incident.

“It’s unacceptable that somebody has been sleeping on the job. They should be punished,” he said.

The MB Aya Express, a motorized outrigger, had a maximum capacity of only 42 persons, but it was allowed to sail in bad weather with about 70 passengers on board, without enough life vests.

Senator Raffy Tulfo said the relevant government authorities, including the PCG and the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), which allowed this tragedy to happen, should not get off the hook.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III and Senator Christopher Go earlier called for those responsible for the sinking to be punished.

Quezon City Rep. Marvin Rillo on Sunday called for the compulsory donning of life jackets on all passenger motorized boats.

“Every traveler on a motorized boat should be wearing a life jacket atall times throughout the voyage as a precaution. This is a simple and practical measure that can help safeguard lives at sea, or in lakes and rivers,” he said.

“If you visit beach resorts nowadays, and you hire a motorized boat for an island-hopping tour, they will require everybody onboard to put on a life jacket for protection. The same rule should be applied to all light watercraft carrying paying passengers,” he added.

The MB Aya Express capsized in Laguna Lake on July 27, shortly after setting out from Barangay Kalinawan in Binangonan, Rizal. It was on its way to Talim Island near the center of the country’s largest lake when it was buffeted by strong waves and rolled over.