Debris delay retrieval operations of divers

Philippine Navy divers find it difficult to penetrate the interior of the sunken vessel MV Saint Thomas Aquinas, owned by 2GO Group Inc., due to the debris that block the ship’s passageways.

Naval Forces Central (Navforcen) Commander Commodore Reynaldo Yoma said they have to smash the windows of the ship to gain entry into its compartments. He also suggested cutting up some parts of the ship in order to widen some passageways.

Yoma, in a meeting with the Incident Management Team (IMT) on Tuesday, August 27, further said the bodies they have found were already swollen and soft which made it even more difficult to haul outside the ship.

The search and retrieval operation was suspended the other day, due to the strong seawater current underneath the Talisay City waters. Early yesterday morning, Yoma said the operation resumed and divers retrieved the body of a child. At least 51passengers are still considered missing or unaccounted.

Cebu City Councilor Gerry Carillo, a member of the IMT, expressed concern about the delay of the retrieval operations and the prolonged stay of the ship underneath the Lawis Ledge in Talisay City. He said unless the ship is taken out from the Lawis Ledge, it would continue to affect the livelihood of the fish vendors in the cities of Cebu and Talisay.

“Ang Pasil (Cebu City public market) murag lahi ra gyud ikumpara nimo sauna,” he said.

However, Calvin Rosellosa 2GO Group Ormoc Manager, said the problem may take longer since the leaks are not yet completely sealed by the Japanese experts.

He said that in a situation like this, the oil would be drained out of the vessel and this usually takes a month. Thereafter, he said they would then decide on what to do with the ship in order to get out of the water.

Rosellosa also provided an update of 2GO’s contribution to the coastal clean up in Cordova town that was heavily hit by the oil spill. Since last week, the company has hired 140 town folks to help the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, and Philippine Coast Guard in cleaning the oil contaminated shores.

They are paid P200 per day. But instead of giving them the full amount, they only receive P50 cash and food packs worth P150 to ensure that their families will have some food on their table.

According to the Department of Social Welfare and Development Region 7 office, there are 2,728 affected families in Cordova.

Rosellosa said they are religiously responding to their responsibilities following the tragedy, like providing assistance to the victims, families of the victims, as well as those affected by the oil spill.

It may cost them a lot of money, he said, “but bad publicity may cost us more.” (Xerxes Alkuino)