MANILA – The Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship MV Vienna Wood did not commit a “hit-and-run” when it left the fishing vessel (F/V) Liberty 5 after their collision last Sunday, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said.
In a radio interview over DZBB on Friday, PCG Commandant, Vice Admiral George Ursabia Jr., said a PCG probe found that after the collision, MV Vienna Wood attempted to keep a safe distance from F/V Liberty 5 to avoid another collision.
“Hindi naman nag-commit ng hit-and-run ang MV Vienna Wood. Lumayo lang sila to achieve a safe distance. Tapos, napansin rin nila na may pitong vessels ang nag-respond sa capsized vessel (MV Vienna Wood did not commit a hit-and-run. They sailed away to achieve a safe distance. Then, they noticed that seven vessels already responded to the capsized vessel),” Ursabia said.
Based on the probe, he said the MV Vienna Wood also cited rough sea conditions as to why they did not deploy a rescue boat.
“Hindi sila nag-initiate na magbaba ng rescue boat. A factor would be ‘yung laki ng alon. They prioritized ‘yung proper navigation ng vessel dahil may mga maliliit na vessels na rin sa incident area (They did not initiate the deployment of a rescue boat. A factor would be the size of the waves. They prioritized proper navigation because there were smaller vessels in the incident area),” Ursabia said.
The PCG’s investigation also found that the MV Vienna Wood’s equipment was functioning properly, including its two radars, which detected F/V Liberty 5 before the crash, he said.
However, Ursabia noted that even after the ship attempted to change course, the collision with the fishing vessel still occurred.
“Yung mga barko kasi, ‘di tulad ng mga sasakyan sa kalsada, mas komplikado i-maniobra dahil may glide (Ships are not like road vehicles. They are more complicated to maneuver because of the glide),” Ursabia said.
Following the conclusion of their investigation on the Hong Kong-based merchant vessel, he said the PCG’s lawyers in Mindoro have been collecting sworn statements from the mariners and fishermen who initially responded to the incident.
“We are now building up pieces of evidence to file criminal charges against MV Vienna Wood,” Ursabia said.
Rescue ops shift to retrieval ops
Meanwhile, after five days of search and rescue operations for the 14 missing fishermen and passengers aboard the F/V Liberty 5 with no survivors found, he said the PCG has shifted its efforts to search and retrieval.
He said the change occurred after three full days of finding no survivors.
“Usually ho kasi, after three full days of search and rescue operations, kapag wala pa rin tayong naililigtas, nag-shi-shift na tayo sa search and retrieval (Usually, after three full days of search and rescue, if we still haven’t found a survivor, we shift to search and retrieval),” Ursabia said.
While there is now a higher chance of finding bodies instead of survivors in the next few days, he said finding survivors is still a possibility.
“Hindi naman tayo nawawalan ng pag-asa. Miracle is a reality. May posibilidad pa rin na buhay pa sila (We’re not losing hope. Miracles happen. There’s still a possibility that they are still alive),” Ursabia said.
By Sunday, he said, the PCG would evaluate whether to extend the search and retrieval operations by another two days and eventually terminate the operations if bodies and survivors are not found.
The PCG and the PCG Auxiliary will extend financial assistance to the families of the 14 missing Filipino mariners, Ursabia added. (PNA)