Press Release
June 24, 2008

Zubiri : Review maritime regulations, Sulpicio franchise
Hold Coast Guard and MARINA officials responsible

Maritime safety regulations and the Sulpicio Lines franchise should undergo the scrutiny of Congress, said Sen. Juan Miguel F. Zubiri in face of the 5th maritime accident involving Sulpicio Lines.

Zubiri said that "Congress being in recess should not bar it from conducting inquiries motu propio and conducting ocular inspections. The Senate Rules of Procedure Governing Inquiries in Aid of Legislation specifically Sections 1, 2 and 3 empowers us to do so. Corollary to these is Rule X Section 13 paragraph 28 of the Rules of the Senate, which mandates the Committee on Public Services to tackle 'all matters affecting public services and utilities; communications; land, air, river and sea transportation including railroads, inter-island navigation, and lighthouses; and the grant or amendment of legislative franchises'."

Zubiri reminded members of the special panel created to investigate the MV Princess of the Stars mishap off Sibuyan Island "to exercise utmost independence since their agencies are also parties to the mishap being investigated." Headed by Department of Transportation and Communications Undersecretary Elena Bautista, the panel has 30 days to investigate and submit its findings.

The composition of the Board of Marine Inquiry under Section 7 of the Revised Coast Guard Law of 1974, as amended, is as follows: "One Coast Guard line officer of Captain's rank as Chairman, two Master Mariners, and one Chief Engineer of the Philippine merchant marine, and one other who shall be a member of the Philippine Bar."

"Those found responsible in Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) for letting the M/V Princess sail despite adverse weather condition, at the very least, should be sacked," Zubiri adds.

Zubiri stressed that "the 30 days of investigation should exhaust all possible causes and contributory factors to the tragedy so that it would be of good use in the future. Pinning down liabilities of responsible parties would be the harsher part of the investigation but, we all have to face to the fact that 700 lives had been imperiled in this tragedy with only a few surviving it."

Vessels of Sulpicio Lines involved in mishaps before Saturdays' mishap were: MV Doña Paz (4,341 dead), MV Princess of the Orient (150 dead), MV Doña Marilyn (250 dead) and MV Princess of the World (fire, no reported deaths).

"The sinking of the MV Princess of the Stars is another wake-up call to review our maritime safety regulations and agencies. This tragic accident has once again shown the laxity and complacency of our maritime regulatory agencies." Other peacetime maritime accidents which were not vessels of Sulpicio Lines were the MV Cebu City, SuperFerry 14, MT Vector, MV Kimelody Cristy and MV Gretchen I, MT Solar 1.

Zubiri said, "last Friday, while everybody was busy gearing for typhoon Frank's land fall, the Marina and Coast Guard officials gave M/V Princess of the Stars the go signal to sail directly into the storm's path. That action is completely deplorable. They fed the ship directly into the 'eye of the storm'."

"At 23,824-ton the M/V Princess of the Stars is not a small-sized vessel and yet it was walloped and turned belly up by strong waves. We cannot just let this incident pass and become just cold statistics of maritime disasters in our archipelago. I support the call for a Congressional or Senate investigation and the review of the franchise or license of Sulpicio Lines. Five mishaps make the competence of Sulpicio Lines owners and management highly suspect."

"We should put a stop to these 'sailing coffins' cruising our waters. The lives and safety of passengers should always be our primary consideration and this should result to stricter maritime safety regulations. My heart goes out to all families who lost their loved ones in that tragedy, but that tragedy could have been prevented if Marina and Coast Guard were strict in the implementation of our maritime safety regulations." Zubiri, a Governor of the Philippine National Red Cross, is in Iloilo supervising his office's relief operations and assessing the typhoon's damage.

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