By Vanne Terrazola
Senator Grace Poe on Tuesday appealed to authorities to immediately determine and hold accountable those responsible for the recent tragedy in the lloilo Strait.
Poe, chair of the Senate committee on public services, expressed grief over the deaths of at least 28 persons in the capsizing of three ferries due to a sudden, strong downpour off the border of Iloilo City and Guimaras province last Saturday.
“Hindi ito dapat sinasapit ng ating mga kababayan (Our countrymen should not have experienced this),” the senator said.
Poe called for a speedy investigation of the incident to find out “where the liability lies.”
“Unang-una, bakit pinayagan na maglayag kahit malaki ang alon at umuulan. Pangalawa, may report na nga na tumaob ‘yung unang umalis na bangka, bakit pinaalis pa ‘yung iba. Pangatlo, bakit may kwento ang ilang pasahero na wala silang life vest?” she asked. (First of all, why were the boats allowed to sail despite the rains and waves? Second, there was already a report that the first boat capsized, why were the others allowed to sail? Third, why were there claims from passengers that they had no life vests?)
Poe said the sea tragedy also stresses the need for the creation of a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to look into such transport accidents.
She refiled Senate Bill No.125 which seeks to establish an independent and non-regulatory body that will investigate transportation-related accidents on land, sea and air, as well as railway and pipeline systems.
The functions of the proposed NTSB include conducting safety inspections on land, sea and air transportation and assessing existing practices and policies regarding the transportation sector. The board shall also undertake studies to transportation as safe and free from risk of injury as possible.
Aside from her bill, Poe said she will also push for a Senate inquiry on the status of the construction of the 2.6-kilometer Iloilo-Guimaras Island Bridge.
Poe recalled supporting the project as this would ease the flow of goods and services in the island provinces. It will also boost tourism in the region, which is known for its white-sand beaches, she added.