BATANGAS CITY, Philippines – A passenger roll on-roll off (RO-RO) vessel caught fire one nautical mile away from the Batangas Anchorage Area in Sta. Rita, Batangas, late Friday afternoon, August 26.
Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Batangas Commander Captain Victorino Ronaldo Acosta said 73 people have been rescued as of 7 pm on Friday, including a 44-year-old woman who was rushed to the hospital for treatment.
The vessel left Calapan, Oriental Mindoro, at around 3 pm and was scheduled to arrive in Batangas at around 5:30 p.m.
Based on the PCG’s initial report, 87 individuals were on board the MV Starlite Asia Phililpines: 49 passengers and 38 crew members. All crew members and 47 passengers had been accounted for, it said.
Starlite Ferries said in a statement on Friday that all passengers and crew onboard are safe and accounted for.
The company also committed to cooperate in the investigation of the fire.
Inspection of other MV Asia vessels
On Tuesday, August 30, the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) in Calabarzon announced that it has suspended the passenger ship safety certificate of MV Asia Philippines, and will subject other vessels of Starlite Ferries to random inspection.
MARINA Calabarzon chief Emmanuel Carpio announced the agency’s decision on Tuesday, the same day Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) investigators said they eyed either faulty electrical wiring or unattended hot works as the cause of the fire.
Carpio said other Starlite Ferries vessels have existing safety certificates. “What we need siguro, is just to double check, reinspect,” when vessels call on port, he said.
“If we will suspend lahat and then ‘yung mga products, goods baka walang gagalaw,” he added. (Suspending all vessels could paralyze the movement of products and goods.)
Batangas Coast Guard Station Commander Captain Victorino Ronaldo Acosta said the MV Asia Philippines fire started from the chimney of the vessel.
“May mga nakitaan na rin po ng loose connections ng mga wiring po, isa po ‘yun sa angulong tinitingnan natin. May witness din po na nagsasabi na doon nga po sa chimney galing ‘yung sunog po,” Acosta said. (Some loose wiring connections have been discovered, and that’s one angle we’re looking at. Some witnesses also said the fire started from the chimney.)
Acosta said the vessel’s engine was not damaged.
“Sa opinion ko, may kalumaan na din ‘yung barko and the same time doon sa upper deck may mga kutson ‘yun eh, may mga unan, kumot kaya naging mabilis ‘yung pagliyab ng sunog,” he said. (I think that vessel was aging and at that time there were mattresses, pillows, and blankets on the upper deck so the fire spread easily.)
Authorities are interviewing crew members and passengers to determine the accuracy of events that transpired on board the vessel, Acosta added.
The joint investigation team composed of the PCG Maritime Casualty Investigation team and MARINA will conduct a deliberation before releasing the final result of their parallel investigation, Acosta said. – Rappler.com