Photo shows the cargo ship Vienna Wood that collided with the fishing boat.
No signs of life in search for 14 boat crew
Robertzon Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - July 1, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — There were no signs of life on the second day of search and rescue operations for 14 Filipinos who went missing following a sea collision in the waters off Mamburao, Occidental Mindoro on Saturday.

As this developed, the Philippine Coast Guard is looking at the civil and criminal liabilities of the crewmembers of the Hong Kong-registered M/V Vienna Wood for not helping the 14 Filipinos even as the F/B Liberty 5 was sinking, according to PCG Vice Adm. George Ursabia.

“According to them, they just stopped and remained in the area without deploying any small boat to conduct search and rescue or extend assistance to the fishing vessel,” Ursabia said during a virtual presser yesterday.

Ursabia said the Vienna Wood did not leave the scene even as responding vessels started to arrive at the scene.

The PCG said it would get the side of the responding vessels to shed light on the matter.

Ursabia is ruling out the possibility that Vienna Wood intentionally hit Liberty 5, noting that visibility was poor in the area due to heavy downpour and bad sea condition.

He said initial investigation showed that Vienna Wood rammed Liberty 5 based on the damage seen on both vessels.

Vienna Wood sustained a hole at the front while Liberty 5 suffered damage on the left side.

Ursabia said they are also looking into the liabilities of the crewmembers based on their responsiveness and promptness in sending distress calls.

He said it took the foreigners three hours before deciding to send a distress call.

Vienna Wood sent the distress call through e-mail, which is acceptable depending on the location of the vessel.

Ursabia said the crewmembers could have tried using the VHF radio, but they were possibly out of range.

The incident happened on the night of June 27 and Vienna Wood’s e-mail was received the next day.

The PCG targets to complete the investigation in five days.

Ursabia considered the incident a simple collision similar to a road crash.

He said Vienna Wood would not be allowed to leave the country pending investigation.

The crewmembers could not be considered arrested, he said.

Don’t give up

Relatives of the missing Filipinos appealed to authorities to continue the search and rescue operations.

The families flocked to the office of the Irma Fishing and Trading Inc., operator of Liberty 5, in Malabon to talk to journalists.

Antonio Magalona, 66, whose grandson Adrian Amogod was among those missing, appealed to authorities to secure the Vienna Wood.

Magalona urged the government not to allow its ties with China hamper the investigation.

Irma Fishing general manager Fermin Soto urged authorities to continue the search and rescue operations. He assured the victims’ relatives that the company would not fail them.

Company lawyer Arnold Naval said the firm has filed a marine protest on behalf of the boat captain before the PCG.

Criminal charges and claims for civil damages may also be filed against the crewmembers of the Vienna Wood, Naval added. Marc Jayson Cayabyab, Ed Amoroso

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