MANILA, Philippines - Three people perished while three others went missing after a passenger roll-on, roll-off (RORO) ferry sank off Southern Leyte on Saturday, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said yesterday.
Initial reports said 113 people were rescued 18 hours after the M/V Maharlika 2 sank at around 4 p.m. Saturday reportedly after developing steering problems off the coastal town of San Ricardo.
Two of the fatalities were identified as Armando Mosqueda and Rohima Ismael.
Citing the account of ship captain Juan Cayago, the PCG said there were a total of 116 people aboard the ferry when it left Lipata, Surigao at noon for Liloan, Southern Leyte.
The skipper said they were carrying 85 passengers and 31 crewmembers.
But the ferry’s manifest listed only 58 passengers and 26 crewmen. It also carried 13 rolling cargoes.
These figures, however, were inconsistent with what was reported by the provincial government.
Southern Leyte Gov. Roger Mercado said on his Twitter account that as of 7:05 a.m. yesterday, a total of 144 people had been rescued while only two were reported dead.
Mercado added that at the time the vessel sank, there was no adverse weather advisory in the area, although the southwest monsoon is prevailing over Southern Leyte.
The Coast Guard said it would include in its probe the discrepancy in the figures.
Maritime investigators, however, ruled out the possibility of overloading as cause of the accident since the ferry had a capacity of up to 400 passengers.
Coast Guard officials said they were focusing first on search and rescue operations before looking into the cause of the sinking of the vessel owned by Archipelago Ferries Corp.
The RORO was ferrying at least 10 vehicles across, including buses, when it sank. The ferry left Lipata port at 11 a.m. and was supposed to dock at Liloan pier at 5 p.m.
Strong winds and big waves spawned by the prevailing monsoon and Typhoon Luis, however, apparently slowed down the ferryboat and sank it midway.
Ruel Mallen, 22, from Davao City, a passenger of a Philtranco bus on board, said the ferryboat started to keel at around 2:00 p.m.
He said the crew then advised them to wear life vests and reportedly started calling for rescue but no one responded.
“When it was clear that the ship was already sinking, we jumped into the water. I saw one woman die on the spot just a few minutes after we landed on water,” Mallen said.
Mallen, who was traveling with his three-year-old son Tristan, said they survived because he threw the rubber boat near him to the water. He then threw his son on it before jumping into the water.
He said around 13 of them were able to get on the rubber boat. From that time, Mallen said the boat started listing to its side, and he kept his eyes peeled, planning for the worst. With Ben Serrano