Struggle continues over sea mishap
Liv G. Campo, Grace Melanie L. Lacamiento (The Freeman) - August 17, 2014 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - It has been a year after the fatal collision between passenger vessel MV St. Thomas Aquinas and MV Sulpicio Express Siete but the families of those who perished in the tragedy continue to struggle as they remember that tragic night.

Juliet Enecio - Romano recalls that the body of father, Rolly Enecio, 78, was found only a month after the collision. Her mother, Marianita, 74, and brother, Joseph, 40, remain missing – their bodies believed to have been trapped in the ship, which sank at Lawis Ledge.

“Wala na man ta’y mahimo kay aksidente man. Sakit mawad-an pero dawaton na lang ang nahitabo,” Juliet says.

She says her father was identified only through his ID and watch. In fact, they were not able to see his face as his body was already wrapped in cloth at the funeral parlor.

“Di na allowed ipakita kay one month na man to before nakita iyang lawas,” she said.

Juliet shares that the last time she communicated with her parents was in July last year but because of distance, the last time she saw them was three years ago.

She says her family continues to hope that the shipping company would pay for the insurance but they are yet to get a word from 2GO since after they received P66,000 financial assistance from the company when her father’s body was identified. The money was spent for the burial. 

“Kung mabayran ang insurance, mas maayo pero wa na man mi mahimo if amo pa ni i-fight. Gasto pa gyud,” she says.

Juliet’s first degree cousin, Joiseil, was the one who requested the Coast Guard for a vessel so that families of those who perished in the incident can offer flowers to the departed at sea.

“Our family has deemed it appropriate to commemorate and honor our dearly relatives through prayers and flower offerings at Lawis Ledge, above the wreck that serves as a tomb for our loved ones,” her letter reads.

2GO Group Inc., the owner of the sunken MV St. Thomas Aquinas, also initiated a nine-day novena mass for the victims of the incident. The shipping company also cleaned and fixed the tombs of those laid to rest at the Carreta Cemetery.

“On behalf of the 2GO family, kami ay nagpapasalamat for the presence of those who are here in joining us for this occasion in offering prayers for the eternal rest of the departed ones and blessing of the tombs. We also are praying for the families to be given more strength in facing these difficulties,” 2GO spokesperson and Super Cat Fast Ferry Corp. General Manager Lito Salvio said.

He said it will be the Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) that will contact the families of the passengers once the bodies that have been retrieved will be identified eventually. He said the company is coordinating constantly with the agency and the Cosmopolitan Funeral Homes on the matter.

“There are one or two families who have approached us from those 21 missing but yun na nga, SOCO will be the one to contact them once they have been identified. So far we have no word yet from SOCO,” Salvio said.

Salvio disclosed that some of the crew members of St. Thomas Aquinas who survived the incident have returned to work but the ship captain remains suspended. He said the company will cooperate with the Coast Guard in salvaging the sunken vessel, especially that the experts they have hired reported that it is safe to remove the ship from the site.

Salvio, however, refused to comment on the environmental case filed by Cordova Mayor Adelino Sitoy and fishermen from the town for aquatic pollution, cleanup, rehabilitation and restoration of the mangrove, and coastal ecosystem in the municipality.

He said 2GO is yet to receive a copy of the complaint.

“We will wait until we see it and until our lawyers have reviewed it. Sa ngayon, hindi muna ako makakapag-comment,” he said.

Jake Miranda, lead diver for the Filipino Cave Divers and currently one of the few trained Filipino public safety divers, said they planned to conduct an inspective dive to the wreck and place a wreath on the sunken vessel. The Coast Guard, however, has not approved any diving activity at the site.

Aside from 2GO, Talisay City also commemorated the incident by offering flowers and a mass at Lawis Ledge. Fr. Patrick Medina of the Society of the Angel of Peace officiated the mass. After the mass, those who participated in the ceremony lit candles at the Talisay Fish Port, which served as headquarters for rescuers and authorities during the search and retrieval operations.

Court order

Meanwhile, the Regional Trial Court has directed the two shipping firms whose vessels collided off Cebu City last year to answer the charges filed against them by the Municipality of Cordova and fishermen from the town.

The directive was also issued to the government agencies included in the environmental case.

The municipality and members of the Pundok sa mga Mananagat sa Cordova, Inc. sued 2GO Group, Inc. and Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corporation (PSACC) for aquatic pollution, clean-up, rehabilitation, and restoration of the mangrove and coastal ecosystem in the town.

It can be remembered that the oil from MV St. Thomas Aquinas, which sank at Lawis Ledge after colliding with MV Sulpicio Express Siete, spilled and reached Cordova town, affecting the livelihood of fishermen in the area.

Lawyer Benjamin Cabredo, counsel for the fisher folk, told The FREEMAN that Judge Mercedita Dadole-Ygnacio of the environmental court has directed the respondents to submit their answer within 15 days from receipt of the summon issued Friday.

The passenger ship collided with Sulpicio’s Express 7 at around 9 p.m. that day while it was on its way to the Cebu port. Because of the impact of the collision, St. Thomas Aquinas sustained heavy damage on its hull causing it to sink just minutes after the collision. The ship now sits 90 feet underwater.   (FREEMAN)

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