Press Release
August 27, 2008

Pia to Marina: Enforce BMI's recommendation suspending Sulpicio franchise

Senator Pia S. Cayetano today welcomed the findings of the Board of Marine Inquiry (BMI) which found Sulpicio Lines Inc. "administratively liable" for the sinking of the MV Princess of the Stars that led to the death of hundreds of the vessel's passengers and crew last June 21.

But Cayetano also gave a stern warning to the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) to ensure the strict implementation of BMI's recommendation suspending Sulpicio's certificate of public convenience (CPC) franchise. She noted that Marina had earlier cleared two Sulpicio passenger ships to resume operations.

"The completion of the BMI probe is just the initial step to bring justice to the victims of this latest sea tragedy involving Sulpicio. Marina must now make sure that BMI's recommendation to keep its vessels grounded is strictly enforced, and for proper authorities to pursue administrative, civil and criminal charges against the shipping line and others equally responsible," said the lady senator.

Cayetano noted that it was Marina itself, upon the recommendations of Transportation Secretary Leonardo Mendoza and Undersecretary and "Task Force Princess of the Stars" Chair Elena Mendoza, that issued a controversial directive last August 5 lifting the grounding order on two of Sulpicio's passenger vessels, MV Princess of the Earth and the MV Cotabato Princess.

She added that Sulpicio's cargo vessels were also earlier allowed to resume operations last July 23, reportedly upon the orders of President Arroyo herself.

"The significance of the BMI findings is that it came at a time when the Arroyo government has showed disturbing signs of softening up on Sulpicio, barely just two months after the incident and with a lot of things still unsettled."

"If you ask me, that Marina order allowing Sulpicio's passenger ships to sail again earlier this month was highly questionable and should be reversed. Was it meant to preempt the BMI's findings? Our transportation officials owe the public and the victims an explanation."

She added: "Even the long-due retrieval of the ship's toxic cargo, including endosulfan and bunker fuel, as well as the remaining dead bodies inside the vessel, won't start until September 1. So the government's softening up on Sulpicio is really bothering."

A bigger tragedy looms if the government again allows those responsible to go unpunished administratively and in court, she warned, stressing that Sulpicio owns a horrible record of seven ship sinkings, according to Lloyd's of London, and it had been involved in 45 accidents in the last three decades.

"Government's failure to make Sulpicio fully accountable for its negligence is the bigger, looming tragedy here. The public must not forget and must remain vigilant," she concluded.

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