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Editorial: Criminal neglect, profiteering

November 28, 2006

SURELY the country’s shipping industry needs to look into itself and implement sweeping changes within its ranks to avoid two major accidents that occurred in this part of the country in the past two weeks.

The first of course was the sinking of a barge in Plaridel town, Misamis Occidental that unloaded several tons of oil debris into the waters, setting fears of a major ecological disaster in that area and in outlying areas of Region 10, including perhaps Misamis Oriental and even Cagayan de Oro by way of the Macajalar Bay and Gingoog Bay.

According to Councilor Alvin Calingin he is scheduled to file a resolution calling on the city government to require Petron to pay damages for its role in the oil debris incident pr else face a damage suit.

In a radio interview, Calingin said the pollution caused by the oil debris may somehow find its way to Macajalar Bay within Cagayan de Oro and some parts of Misamis Oriental.

But no sooner had this happened when a ferry sank off the coast of Surigao del Sur province, drowning more than 10 people with one o the passengers being the mayor of a small town in Surigao province and one town councilor. An inquiry is being sought into the incident.

Overloading is being blamed as the cause of the sinking and this problem had also been seen in similar maritime mishaps in years past, most notably that infamous Dona Paz tragedy that killed thousands of passengers. And to think this happens every once a year or two years since that occurred.

According to Surigao del Sur Governor Robert Lyndon Barbers, the passenger manifest didn’t reflect the actual number of passengers in the vessel and thus this is one solid ground for filing administrative and even criminal charges to those involved, including even the management.

But it is the maritime authorities who also bear the biggest brunt of the blame for allowing this to happen so many times.

In a country surrounded by thousands of islands, the shipping industry in this part of the world owns the sorriest safety record to date.

And the inability and inaction of the maritime authorities to do anything about it has cost thousands in lives and–when taking the oil debris debacle in Misamis Occidental–millions more in damages to the environment.

Latest word is that the Marina suspended the license of the shipping firm pending investigation. But the action, it seems, is too little to late.

And the cause behind all these tragedies remains the greed for profit. The public should roundly condemn those perpetrators but most especially the government agencies concerned for having all the power and most of the resources to prevent these tragedies from occurring but have failed to do so or either chose not to. (SunStar Cagayan de Oro, Nov. 28, 2006)

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