By Joel C. Atencio
BATANGAS CITY, Batangas, Dec. 27 –Authorities here on Sunday recalled some of the worst Philippine maritime disasters in as many years and a day after the sinking of the ferry MV Baleno 9 near this coastal town.
Records show that some of the maritime accidents in the Philippines happened way back 1987 wherein 4,000 people died in the sinking of Doña Paz off Mindoro Island.
At least six persons were dead and 22 missing, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said.
PCG and other maritime experts said many Filipinos, most of whom cannot afford to buy a ticket for air travel, use the seas and waterways to travel around the Philippine archipelago, on everything from massive steel-hulled ferries to wooden dugouts with outriggers.
Bad weather, particularly during the typhoon season, as well as poor maintenance, overloading of vessels and lax enforcement of safety regulations has often brought disaster.
The PCG said in December 1987, some 4,341 people died when Dona Paz, an inter-island passenger ferry owned by Sulpicio Lines, collided with an oil tanker off Mindoro Island.
PCG commandant Adm. Wilfredo Tamayo said it was not the last sea tragedy in the Philippines, an archipelago of 7,107 islands.
Tamayo said in 1988, around 250 people died when Dona Marilyn, another passenger ferry owned by Sulpicio Lines, sank.
On April 11, 2002, at least 30 people were killed when MV Maria Carmella, which was bound from the island-province of Masbate for Lucena City in Quezon province, caught fire.
Among the most frequently mentioned causes of the sea accidents were overloading of the ship, ageing facilities, badly trained crewmembers, and poor compliance by the vessels with safety precautions and measures.
While the Philippines has over 7,100 islands and 10,000 ships or boats, the Philippine Coastguard has only 4,000 men.
Recent reports said Sulpicio Lines posted a net loss in 2006 of P244.26 million.
The company attributed the result to a 14.7 percent drop in passenger revenues. From P1.1 billion in 2005, it earned just P918 million in 2006.
Here is a list of shipping accidents in the Philippines over the past two decades:
December 26, 2009: Three people are confirmed dead and at least 22 others are still missing after car ferry MV Baleno 9 sinks after water enters the bow.
December 24, 2009: Four people are confirmed dead with 23 others still missing as the wooden-hulled Catalyn B with 73 people on board collides with a fishing vessel at the mouth of Manila Bay.
September 6, 2009: Nine people killed after the Superferry 9 tilts sharply and then sinks near the southern city of Zamboanga.
May 2009: Wooden-hulled Commander 6 cracks open and sinks just south of Manila, leaving 12 dead.
December 2008: The ferry Maejan capsizes off the northern Philippines, leaving 30 dead.
November 2008: Don Dexter Kathleen, small wooden-hulled ferry, capsizes in freak winds off the central island of Masbate, leaving 42 dead.
June 2008: The Princess of the Stars ferry sails into a typhoon and tips over near the coast of Sibuyan island. Of the 850 on board, only 57 survive.
February 2004: Islamist militants firebomb the Superferry 14 near Manila Bay, leaving 116 dead.
April 2000: The cargo vessel Anahanda, overloaded with passengers, sinks off the southern island of Jolo. About 100 of the estimated 150 people on board die.
September 18, 1998: The Princess of the Orient ferry sinks off Batangas City south of Manila. About 97 die.
December 1994: A Singaporean freighter hits the ferry Cebu City in Manila Bay, leaving about 140 dead.
October 1988: The Dona Marilyn ferry sinks off the central island of Leyte, leaving more than 250 dead.
December 20, 1987: The Dona Paz ferry collides with an oil tanker off Mindoro island near Manila, leaving more than 4,000 dead in the world's worst peacetime shipping disaster. (PNA)