Victims’ kin commemorate M/V Aquinas tragedy
Evelyn Macairan (The Philippine Star) - August 17, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Relatives and friends of the victims of the sinking of M/V St. Thomas Aquinas will offer flowers and prayers today at the wreck site in Cebu.

Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Cebu District commander Commodore William Melad yesterday said they were asked to assist in the commemoration of the Aug. 16, 2013 tragedy that left at least 116 people dead and 21 missing.

“Some relatives of the missing victims are requesting if they could go to the site to offer prayers and flowers, and we approved their request. We would be providing the vessel,” Melad told The STAR.

He said he ordered PCG Cebu chief Commander Weneil Azcuna to list down the names of those who would be joining the activity.

The PCG would also be coordinating with the vessel’s owner 2Go Travel to inform the shipping line of the planned activities to commemorate the incident “as a matter of courtesy.”

Authorities and the ship owner have yet to decide whether to remove the vessel at the wreck site.

 Melad said they are still waiting for the recommendation of the technical committee formed by the PCG.

“For about a month now, the PCG technical committee has been studying the arguments of 2Go Travel, the owner of M/V St. Thomas Aquinas, that they should not be required to salvage their ship because this means that the south gate of Mactan to the Cebu Harbor would be closed and this would hamper the shipping in the area,” he said.

While he refused to speculate if there could still be bodies in the sunken vessel, he said it would “help appease” the relatives of the victims if the ship is extracted from the bottom of the sea.

A salvage operation could take up to six months, depending on the strategy to be implemented by the salvage firm.

Melad said they have addressed the issue raised by 2Go Travel that the 11,405-gross ton sunken ship would not pose a danger to navigation because it lies 150 feet below sea level.

“There are still container vans inside the M/V St. Thomas Aquinas and in the event that there would be another strong earthquake like what happened to Bohol last year, it could cause the submerged vessels or the container vans to refloat,” the Coast Guard official said.

He added that wreck removal operations are possible with the newest technology.

M/V St. Thomas Aquinas came from Nasipit, Butuan on its way to Cebu when it collided with M/V Sulpicio Express 7, which was on its way to Davao.

The impact reportedly caused a hole on the rear section of the starboard of the M/V St. Thomas Aquinas while the bow of the cargo ship was damaged.

The search and rescue operations led by the PCG lasted for 39 days.

CEBU CEBU DISTRICT CEBU HARBOR COAST GUARD COMMANDER WENEIL AZCUNA COMMODORE WILLIAM MELAD MELAD PHILIPPINE COAST GUARD V ST. THOMAS AQUINAS V SULPICIO EXPRESS
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