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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Philippine Sea Tragedies: Who's The Real Culprit?

"It's a shame, when a government that can shamelessly afford a million-peso dinner cannot afford to pay minimum wage for personnel supposedly tasked to secure the safety of its people."

They say Christmas is for children. If so, this is a cruel Christmas for some children who perished in the recent tragedies at sea. Back to back sea tragedies in Philippine waters this Christmas is no Christmas at all for the victims and those who lost their loved ones. When passengers were gearing up for their memorable Christmas vacation, disasters struck.

As of posting time, many bodies are still unaccounted for. Search and retrieval operation is still ongoing. Relatives of the missing still await news from the authorities. Those who survived are considered fortunate, and those who perished their destiny already sealed.

The Philippines is known to be one of the world's largest archipelagos. It is comprised of 7,107 islands, mostly inhabited. Its maritime history is as old as human civilization. And it is no surprise that it also boasts of maritime disasters, its record no other country would dare challenge.

This year alone, an incredibly-dizzying record of 11 disasters had already occurred in Philippine seas. Hundreds of lives were already lost and survivors have yet to move on with their lives. To a country that boasts of world-class seafarers, the rationale that these disasters are attributed to incompetence is just absurd. But what makes this phenomenon seemingly unavoidable?

From the words itself of the Marina Administrator, she unhesitatingly admitted that the government lacks iron will to implement laws on maritime safety. She further stressed that they lack personnel to conduct ocular check on sea-worthiness of all passenger vessels. This is the painful truth, all patrons of this so called roros (roll-on roll-off) have to live with.

In provinces outside of mainland Luzon, the traveling public have no other choice, but to patronize this kind of transportation. Apart from its being affordable, it also allows passengers to carry loads of cargoes necessary for their day to day subsistence. So in essence, it is their only mode of transportation.

The usual causes of these disasters arise from over-loading, over-crowding (actual passengers are higher than what is being declared in the manifesto), and dilapidated vessels that are actually third or fourth hand bought at a cheap price - which make them unfit for sailing, but are hugely tolerated to operate.

As expected, authorities are quick to blame the owners of these ill-fated vessels citing irresponsibility and greed. Fingerpointing becomes the norm in these cases and the usual culprit would be the ruthless yet defenseless Mother Nature. What a good riddance of culpability from our government officials!

If our government within its power cannot ensure the safety of our sea travellers, what the hell on earth these Marina and Coast Guard people are doing? What makes these agencies beneficial to our people? That would also be preposterous to abolish their existence! But why is it everytime disasters happen, they just sheepishly admit they lack manpower to execute their duties? How many more vessels are considered to be sea-unworthy, yet continuously proliferate our ports?

This is my take on this. If you happen to be a citizen of a third world archipelagic countries like Indonesia, Bangladesh and the Philippines, and you don't have any other choice of transportation, but to avail of the services of these doomed floating cemeteries; start to think that this is your government's inexplicit way of curtailing population growth. Why not? Despite the Philippines being the country with the worst record in maritime disasters, it is yet to learn from its blunders!

When we talk about safety and hundreds of lives are at stake, whatever it takes to ensure lives are preserved, we ought to do everything within our power and capacity. But who cares? "These are only poor people with less impact to our existence! Why bother to increase the budget of Marina or Coast Guard when there is not much left from government coffers?" Sad to say, these are the obvious monologues from our corrupt officials, who until now refuse to realize they are being derelict and grossly irresponsible.

The Marina administrator herself, in her capacity admits that, their lack of personnel is the reason why not all vessels are being thoroughly inspected for sea-worthiness. It was reported that a crew who did not survive the incident, even managed to text her family saying there was a big hole in the ship and that she was scared it might capsize. Unfortunately for her, she lost her life in the first week of her first job.

How many more lives await their end in the cruel seas of our archipelago? While the poor and helpless citizens drown in the seas, so are our unscrupulous and corrupt government officials who drown in the bounty of their plunders. It's a shame, when a government that can shamelessly afford a million-peso dinner, cannot afford to pay minimum wage for personnel supposedly tasked to secure the safety of its people.

No matter who is willing to take the blame, be it the greedy shipowners or the derelict Marina officials, or the ever-furious Mother Nature, or the lazy and sleep-deprived legislators, who would just attend the sessions and yawn, it all comes down to one - a corrupt government that is unable to protect its citizens by virtue of greed and slothfulness - is the one culpable and should be put to shame.

A school of thought readily supports and concludes that - in a third world country like ours, a citizen's longevity does depend on leaders who have powers to prolong or curtail his or her existence. This theory is very self-explanatory. Then our dilemma starts from the question of how and when to get rid of them and who to replace them. As election nears, everyone sounds and looks like angels, that you would get confused whom to believe. The problems in our country today are the very same problems already written in history. Leaders have come and gone. But the change that everyone invokes remains a dream.

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Anonymous said...

Are you related to De Quiros? While reading your post, I can't help but notice the similarity in tone: witty and intelligent.

That's always the excuse of our government officials: lack of fundings, lack of people, of preparation, lack of everything. Kulang na lang sabihin: kulang din kasi kami sa pag-iisip, which is I think the reason why we have these disasters.

Napaka-inept ng mga nagtatrabaho sa gobyerno. Kahit anong ahensya ng gobyerno na puntahan mo, pareho lang sila ng gawi.

I don't know any other solution to our problems except a total change of mindset. Dapat walang kanya-kanya, walang tamad, walang corrupt, etc. Hirap no?

The Pope said...

We Filipinos are dangerously living in a cycle of recurring disasters as history keeps on repeating and repeating that it seems nobody is interested in putting an end it.

I agree with you, our dreams for a real change will remain an impossible dream.

I pray for the victims of this latests sea disaster, may the souls of the departed rest in peace.

Anonymous said...

Pahabol: Happy New Year, Nelson!

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year!

Yeah, I know it's gruesome, pero nawawalan na rin ako ng pag-asa sa bansa natin.

I'm a government employee, and of course hindi ko na sasabihin kung anu-ano pa ang mga kapalpakan ng sistema natin dito sa Pinas. Nakakalungkot talaga na paulit-ulit na lang ang mga trahedya na tulad nito, at ganun ganun na lamang ang mga reaction at response ng mga kinauukulan.

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