Before Christmas season: Salvage team set to remove wreck
- Niña G. Sumacot-Abenoja () - November 12, 2008 - 12:00am

CEBU - The capsized M/V Princess of the Stars is expected to be removed from the seawaters off San Fernando town in Sibuyan Island before the Christmas season.

This was the commitment of Sulpicio Lines Incorporated, owner of the vessel.

As salvage operations are going full swing as retrieval of the bodies of the passengers that died in the mishap has ended.

Only over 500 bodies of the more than 800 passengers and crew have been recovered.

The salvage operations have been done under close supervision by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) through Undersecretary Elena Bautista.

A total of 199 bodies recovered from the vessel arrived in Cebu yesterday from Sibuyan Island on board M/V Tacloban Princess.

A mass was celebrated by Msgr. Jose Tajanlangit upon the arrival of the bodies.

“These are 199 bodies, more or less. At least the head is there and the lower and upper extremities,” National Bureau of Investigation-Disaster Victim Identification (NBI-DVI) team commander Dr. Renato Bautista said.

Dr. Bautista said that majority of the bodies recovered were of women and children, which were determined through the size of the skulls.

The Taps was played by the bugler of the Philippine National Police (PNP) band when the bodies, packed inside three container vans were lowered from the vessel.

“The solemn sounding of Taps is a military tradition. This is to lead the souls to their final rest or sleep,” Chief Supt. Ronald Roderos, director of the Police Regional Office (PRO)-7 said.

A total of 513 bodies have recovered since June.  Of this number, 306 have been identified through DNA testing, physical appearance, and dental records.

A total of 88 bodies at the Cosmopolitan Funeral Homes are still awaiting identification.

USec Bautista, during a press conference, expressed her appreciation of how the retrieval teams, who she said were “very quick and efficient.”

The press conference was held yesterday morning at the Bureau of Customs conference room at the Cebu International Port after the arrival of bodies.

“I’m impressed with the process that they went through. Para sa mga relatives na naghihintay pa rin, gusto namin kayong bigyan ng kumpyansa na ginagawa ang lahat ng posibleng paraan para masuyod pa ang barko to find other bodies,” USec Bautista said.

She added that she personally witnessed how the retrieval team went through the decks of the vessel.

However, with the removal of the vessel before the fast approaching Christmas day as promised by the SLI, the retrieval operation will have to be stopped.

“We don’t want to give high hopes to the families of the victims. Possibly, ‘yung 300 bodies na hindi pa nare-recover, they can no longer be found, but as much as possible, we will help the families to cope through this by giving them closure,” USec Bautista said.

She said that on December 8, which will be Sibuyan’s fiesta celebration, a ground breaking of a memorial will be set. She said she will sit down with SLI to discuss their plans.

In this memorial, the names of all the victims will be engraved on a wall.

The inauguration of the said memorial will be set before the New Year celebration, she said.

Also, a daylight’s aid or a marker in the form of a cross, as what USec Bautista described, will be put up in the seawaters where the vessel sank.

This will serve as a guide for the navigation of the vessels that will pass the area.

The SLI management for their part committed to help in the process of the identification of the victims.

“Sulpicio has been always a part of the DVI team from the start. The main objective of SLI is to have all victims be reunited with the families,” Ryan Go, Vice President for maintenance, said. –/NLQ (THE FREEMAN)


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