PH Coast Guard to block departure of Hong Kong ship crew in Liberty 5 case
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Wednesday, July 8, said it would prevent the crew of the Hong Kong-flagged ship Vienna Wood from leaving the Philippines as it presses criminal charges over the collision with the fishing boat Liberty 5.
In a meeting with the families of the 14 missing Liberty 5 crew at the PCG headquarters in Manila, commandant Vice Admiral George Ursabia Jr said the PCG on Tuesday, July 7, filed a court pleading to prevent the Vienna Wood’s crew from going home to China, particularly those it tagged in a criminal case.
The PCG would also issue a hold departure order against the Vienna Wood to keep the bulk carrier under Philippine custody until the case is resolved, Ursabia added.
The victims’ relatives and the Liberty 5 owner Irma Fishing and Trading said they planned to file a separate civil case against the Vienna Wood. Ursabia promised assistance, saying they may use the PCG’s criminal complaint to bolster their case.
“Rest assured po na ang Coast Guard, tutulong sa inyo. Alam ko po na masakit talaga ang ganitong sitwasyon. Ipagdasal po natin ito sa Panginoon. Wala pong ibang makakatulong sa atin kundi Diyos lang,” Ursabia told the families.
(Rest assured that the Coast Guard will help you. I know this situation is really painful. Let us pray for this to the Lord. No one else can help us but God.)
Active search called off
Ursabia also told the families that the PCG concluded its active search for the missing mariners on Tuesday, July 7. Nine days of seaborne and aerial operations off Occidental Mindoro and northern Palawan yielded no sign of the victims.
“Sa ngayon, wala pa rin tayong nakita na katawan, but we cannot declare them dead. There is still a possibility na buhay pa sila. Lahat naman tayo naniniwala sa Diyos. It is too early para sabihin na patay na sila, kaya ang masasabi natin, missing pa rin sila.” Ursabia told the grieving families.
(As of now, we still haven’t found bodies, but we cannot declare them dead. There is still a possibility that they’re still alive. We all believe in God. It is too early to say they’re dead, so all we can say is they’re still missing)
The PCG, Philippine Air Force, Philippine National Police Maritime Group, the Bureau of Fire Protection, and several local governments deployed vessels and planes to search the waters between Occidental Mindoro and northern Palawan for the 11 crew and 3 passengers who were aboard the Liberty 5 when it capsized from the collision.
With full search-and-retrieval operations ended, Ursabia said the local PCG unit will keep “actively monitoring” the area for any sign of the missing persons. This includes the surrounding coastlines, in case the victims are washed ashore.
The PCG on Monday, July 6, formally accused the Vienna Wood’s operator Nomikos Transworld Maritime and 7 of the ship’s officers of “reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide and damage to property” before the Occidental Mindoro Prosecutor’s Office.
The Vienna Wood crew did not actively attempt to save the distressed Liberty 5 crew and passengers when they collided around 14 nautical miles off Mamburao, Occidental Mindoro on the night of June 27, Ursabia earlier said.
The Vienna Wood’s ship master, Zhang Weiwei, allegedly said his crew prioritized maintaining a safe distance from some 7 smaller vessels that had come to the Liberty 5’s aid after the impact.
The Vienna Wood is based in Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China. The 7 officers named in the case were Chinese.
During his meeting with the victims’ families, Ursabia denied rumors some of the missing mariners were kept hidden aboard the Vienna Wood. The PCG searched the entire cargo ship and found none of them, he said.
“Neither is there pressure from China to meddle in the case. It’s clear we have full jurisdiction because the incident happened in our waters,” Ursabia added.
After the meeting, the PCG, PCG Auxiliary Executive Squadron, and Civil Relations Special Support Squadron gave financial assistance to the victims’ families, the PCG said in a statement. – Rappler.com