EDITORIAL - Safety at sea; a shared responsibility

The Philippines is also known as the maritime disaster capital of the world, an infamous title we earned after frequent and tragic disasters at sea, including what still stands as the worst peacetime maritime disaster in human history.

Last Monday we are again reminded of this infamous title after seven people were killed and 24 others injured after a fire engulfed a ferry in Real, Quezon.

According to reports, the MV Mercraft 2 was just about to dock at Real after leaving Polillo Island when it caught fire, forcing passengers to abandon it. Seven people drowned as a result.

So who should be held responsible for this latest incident? This won’t be easy.

Is the government to blame? The thing with Philippine agencies and offices in charge of public safety is that they grow lax after nothing happens for a while. We see this with fire safety standards; they only get strict enforcing the fire code after disaster strikes, eventually they relax regulations again.

Of course, the fault is not theirs alone. We are sure many companies, transport and otherwise, are more than willing to turn a blind eye to cutting corners and not following safety standards in the interest of saving money or making more of it.

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The blame does not stop there either, passengers may also come to ignore safety rules or procedures after nothing tragic happens after a while.

Take note that this is not to disparage those who died in the disaster. We are just saying that sometimes travel becomes more dangerous because of the unnecessary risks people choose to take.

As much as we like to assign blame on just one agency, transport company, or individual, it is not as easy as that.

Because we live in an archipelago where transport and travel by sea is more convenient for the vast majority, safety at sea has now become the shared responsibility of the government, the transport companies, and even those who are just along for the ride --the passengers themselves.

We cannot ignore the fact that we have government agencies that are becoming overstretched, transport companies that cannot keep up with every safety standard, and a population threatening to exceed the capacity of our transport system.

The more people realize this shared responsibility, the safer sea travel can become.

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