Tag Archive: Jim Alagao


The number of people killed in the ship collision off Talisay, Cebu, rose to 52 Monday as authorities continued to battle with bad weather and an oil spill scouring the seas for more victims, a Coast Guard official said.

Technical divers recovered 11 bodies Monday morning near the area where the ill-fated M/V St. Thomas Aquinas sank, raising the number of fatalities to 52, Cmdr. Winiel Azcuna, Coast Guard Station Cebu commander, said.

“They (divers) were not yet able to totally penetrate the vessel but those people (11 bodies) were were trapped by debris dun sa labas ng barko,” Azcuna said in a phone interview.

The diving operations, however, were temporarily halted 11 a.m. as bad weather again posed a threat on the divers, he said.

“Medyo makulimlim, wala namang ulan, however, the wind is very strong and the waves are quite high. It’s very dangerous po para sa ating mga divers,” Azcuna said.

“They will resume, hopefully, weather permitting, this afternoon,” he added.

Amid the search, fuel from the St. Thomas Aquinas spilled and has now spread to different areas, including Cordova, which has already declared a state of calamity, Lt. Jim Alagao, public affairs officer of the Armed Forces’ Central Command, said.

“Around 25,000 liters to 30,000 liters na po ‘yung lumabas galing sa barko,” Azcuna said, citing information from a company hired by the St. Thomas Aquinas’ owner, 2Go Group Inc., to help contain the oil.

Members of the Coast Guard’s Marine Environment Protection Unit and private firm Malayan Towage were still trying to contain the oil spill Monday, he said. (John Roson)

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The number of people killed in the ship collision off Talisay, Cebu, rose to 38 Sunday as authorities battled with bad weather and an oil spill while retrieving bodies and searching for more survivors, a Coast Guard official said.

Five bodies were recovered by technical divers Sunday near the area where the ill-fated M/V St. Thomas Aquinas sank, raising the number of fatalities to 38, Cmdr. Winiel Azcuna, Coast Guard Station Cebu commander, said.

“They (divers) have not yet penetrated the vessel, the bodies were retrieved outside the vessel, na-trap lang dun sa mga debris,” Azcuna said in a phone interview shortly before 5 p.m.

The technical divers, however, were experiencing difficulty in entering the ship because of strong waves and currents, he said.

“Malakas ‘yung alon and they need to place safety lines nang hindi naman ma-trap sa ilalim ‘yung divers natin,” Azcuna said.

No ‘retrieval’ yet

All missing persons, fatalities and survivors were occupants of the St. Thomas Aquinas, which sank after colliding with M/V Sulpicio Express Siete near Lauis Ledge around 9 p.m. Friday.

Azcuna said there were still no plans to shift to “retrieval” operations because 48 hours have not yet passed since the St. Thomas Aquinas sank.

“As of this time, since the incident transpired, wala pa naman pong 48 hours, so the protocol of the Coast Guard states that it is still search and rescue operation. We will evaluate the situation further if we will downgrade it to retrieval operation, maybe tomorrow or the next day,” he said.

Seventy-five passengers and seven crew members remain missing. The number of survivors is now at 750, broken down as 644 passengers and 106 crew members, he said.

Oil spill poses threat

Aside from the bad sea condition, another challenge for the divers was to avoid the fuel that is now spilling from the St. Thomas Aquinas.

The oil spill has spread towards the shores of Talisay, Cordova town, and Mactan Island so the Coast Guard deployed some of its personnel to contain it, Azcuna said.

“The Philippine Coast Guard has deployed Marine Environment Protection Unit personnel and they are now spraying dispersants, hanggang sa ma-disperse natin itong oil and ma-minimize yung effect of the oil at the shore lines. At the same time, 2Go has accredited Malayan Towage to conduct oil spill containment operations,” he said.

Ship captains in custody

Meanwhile, Azcuna said the captains of both the St. Thomas Aquinas and Sulpicio Express Siete are both alive and are in “temporary custody” of their respective shipping companies.

“There is an agreement between the Coast Guard and the shipping companies that they will make available their captains and crew when the board of marine inquiry in Manila will be convened,” Azcuna noted.

The St. Thomas Aquinas, owned by 2Go Group Inc. was skippered by Capt. Reynan Bermejo. Sulpicio Express Siete is owned by Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corp., formerly known as Sulpicio Lines Inc.

Bermejo was among those who were found by local fishermen immediately after the St. Thomas Aquinas sank, according to Lt. Jim Alagao, Armed Forces Central Command public affairs officer. (John Roson)

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(Updated 6 p.m.) At least 31 people died while 629 others were rescued and 216 more remain missing after a passenger vessel collided with a cargo ship and sank in waters off Talisay, Cebu, Friday night, authorities said.

Cmdr. Winiel Azcuna, Coast Guard Station Cebu commander, gave the figures as Navy vessels, Coast Guard ships, and civilian seacraft continued to scour the seas for survivors Saturday.

The fatalities include four persons who divers recovered near the area where the ill-fated M/V St. Thomas Aquinas sank, Lt. Jim Alagao, Armed Forces’ Central Command (Centcom) public affairs officer, said.

“Kasama na diyan ‘yung apat na nakita sa vicinity ng lumubog na Aquinas. Nakuha ng mga divers ng NAVSOU5 (Naval Special Operations Unit-5) at a depth of 120 feet (36.58 meters),” Alagao said in a text message.

Of the survivors, 247 were brought to different hospitals in Cebu City for treatment and medical checks, he said.

Navy troops also rescued an infant, who was in critical condition and brought to a Coast Guard vessel so it can be quickly taken to a hospital, Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic said in a statement.

Some 58 infants were reportedly on board the St. Thomas Aquinas when it sank after colliding with Sulpicio Lines’ cargo ship, M/V Sulpicio Express-7, around 9 p.m. Friday near Lauis Ledge, according to the Navy.

Divers scattered

Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda, Centcom chief, said Navy and Coast Guard divers were deployed Saturday morning to the collision site and found the sunken ship at about 150 feet (45.7 meters).

Technical divers were also set to come to help authorities determine if there are still people inside the ship, he said.

The site of the collision is about 600 yards (548 meters) west of Lauis Ledge and 45 fathoms (82.3 meters) deep, Alagao said.

More Navy divers from Manila and Palawan arrived in Cebu on a C-130 military plane on Saturday to join the search for the missing persons, he said.

The missing persons, fatalities, and survivors were all occupants of the M/V St. Thomas Aquinas, Azcuna said.

Weather threatens search

Saturday’s search and rescue operations went smoothly until the afternoon, when the weather turned bad.

“Huminto sa pagpapalipad ng dalawang choppers due to bad weather,” Alagao said in a text message past 3 p.m.

Azcuna said the Cebu City Pier, where his Coast Guard Station sits, even experienced a power outage in the afternoon.

Search for the missing persons continued despite this. “Tuluy-tuloy po ‘yung operation natin, together with the Philippine Navy and other local government units,” Azcuna said.

The operations were launched after authorities received a distress call from the St. Thomas Aquinas a few minutes after 9 p.m. Friday.

The St. Thomas Aquinas, owned by 2Go Group Inc., started taking in water right after the collision and was already sinking two hours later, Deveraturda said.

“‘Yung barko ay nag-take in ng water and is starting to [sink], palubog na… pumapasok na ‘yung water sa hull niya,” Deveraturda said when reached by phone 11 p.m. Friday.

Only 841 in manifest

In a statement posted on its website, 2Go said the St. Thomas Aquinas’ manifest listed only 723 passengers and 118 crew, or a total of 841 people, as well as 104 units of 20-footer containers.

Tallying the number of fatalities, survivors, and missing persons provided by the authorities puts the number of people on the vessel at 876, or 35 more than those in the manifest as claimed by 2Go.

But 2Go said the ship has an “authorized capacity” of 1,010 passengers and crew, and 160 units of 20-footer containers.

Earlier, Deveraturda said initial reports from the ground indicated that the St. Thomas Aquinas only had 690 passengers.

Minda Morante, Office of Civil Defense-7 director, said she received “raw information” that only more than 400 passengers were listed when the St. Thomas Aquinas left Nasipit Port in Agusan del Norte for Cebu.

“Minsan merong mga nakaakyat na sa barko, doon na lang kumukuha ng ticket, hindi mo talaga ma-account yan,” Morante said.

Ill-fated meeting

According to 2Go, the St. Thomas Aquinas came from Surigao and Nasipit Port, and headed to Cebu for a 10 p.m. stopover before proceeding to Manila.

The Sulpicio Express-7, on the other hand, had just left Cebu City Pier for Davao, Morante said.

“Papasok na siya (M/V St. Thomas Aquinas) sa Cebu City port, tapos ‘yung isa namang barko from the Cebu City port, palabas naman, nagpang-abot sila, ganoon ang nangyari,” she said.

Morante said she alerted all hospitals in Talisay and nearby towns upon learning about the mishap because of an expected influx of patients.

“Nag-alerto tayo ng mga ospital na silang lahat ay to recieve and receive, kasi di ‘yun kakayanin lahat ng Talisay District Hospital,” she said.

“Immediately after the collision, the crew of the M/V St. Thomas distributed life jackets to the passengers and carried out emergency abandon-ship procedures. At the same time, the ship’s officers sent a distress signal to the nearest Philippine Coast Guard Station to alert them for immediate rescue operations,” 2Go said for its part.

An emergency operations center was also activated at port to give assistance, including meal packs and dry clothes, to survivors, it said.

“Those needing medical attention have been attended to by onsite medical personnel while others have already been brought to nearby hospitals. The rest of the passengers have been offered accommodations at a nearby hotel,” the company added. (John Roson)

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this post has been updated. see update here

(Updated 10 a.m.) Thirty-five people died while 630 others were rescued and 216 more remain missing after a passenger vessel collided with a cargo ship and sank in waters off Talisay, Cebu, Friday night, a military official said.

Of the survivors, 247 were brought to different hospitals in Cebu City for treatment and medical checks, Lt. Jim Alagao, Armed Forces’ Central Command (Centcom) public affairs officer, said in a phone interview.

Alagao gave the figures as Navy vessels, Coast Guard ships, and civilian seacraft continued to scour the seas for survivors Saturday.

Navy and Coast Guard divers were also deployed Saturday morning to the collision site, which is about 600 yards (0.54 kilometers) West of Lawis Ledge and 45 fathoms (82.3 meters) deep, Alagao said.

Divers plunged to about 80 feet but were unable to spot the sunken ship because of low visibility, he said.

The missing persons, fatalities, and survivors were all occupants of the M/V St. Thomas Aquinas, Cmdr. Weniel Azcuna, Coast Guard Station Cebu commander, said.

The passenger vessel sank after colliding with the M/V Sulpicio Express 7 around 9 p.m. Friday near Lawis Ledge, Azcuna said.

The St. Thomas Aquinas, owned by 2GO Group Inc., started taking in water right after the collision and was already sinking two hours later, Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda, Centcom chief, said.

“‘Yung barko ay nag-take in ng water and is starting to [sink], palubog na… pumapasok na ‘yung water sa hull niya,” Deveraturda said when reached by phone 11 p.m.

In a statement posted on its website, 2GO said the St. Thomas Aquinas’ manifest listed only 723 passengers and 118 crew, or a total of 841 people, as well as 104 equivalent 20-footer container units.

Tallying the number of fatalities, survivors, and missing persons provided by the authorities puts the number of people on the vessel at 881, or 40 more than those in the manifest as claimed by 2GO.

But 2GO said the ship has an authorized capacity of 1,010 passengers and crew, and 160 units of 20-footer containers.

Earlier, Deveraturda said initial reports from the ground indicate that the St. Thomas Aquinas only had 690 passengers.

Minda Morante, Office of Civil Defense-7 director, said she received a “raw infomation” that only more than 400 passengers were listed when the St. Thomas Aquinas left Nasipit Port in Agusan del Norte for Cebu.

“‘Yun ang isa sa mga sinusubukan namng i-confirm dito… ‘Yung ganyan, although raw information, kasi minsan merong mga nakaakyat na sa barko, doon na lang kumukuha ng ticket, hindi mo talaga ma-account yan,” Morante said.

According to 2GO, the St. Thomas Aquinas came from Surigao and Nasipit Port, and headed to Cebu for a 10 p.m. stopover before proceeding to Manila.

The Sulpicio Express-7, on the other hand, had just left Cebu Pier for Davao, Morante said.

“Papasok na siya (M/V St. Thomas Aquinas) sa Cebu City Port, tapos yung isa namang barko from the Cebu City Port, palabas naman, nagpang-abot sila, ganoon ang nangyari,” she said.

Morante said she alerted all hospitals in Talisay and nearby towns upon learning about the mishap because of an expected influx of patients.

“Nag-alerto tayo ng mga ospital na silang lahat ay to recieve and receive, kasi lahat di ‘yun kakayanin ng Talisay District Hospital,” she said.

“Immediately after the collision, the crew of the M/V St. Thomas distributed life jackets to the passengers and carried out emergency abandon-ship procedures. At the same time, the ship’s officers sent a distress signal to the nearest Philippine Coast Guard Station to alert them for immediate rescue operations,” 2GO said for its part.

An emergency operations center was also activated at port to give assistance, including meal packs and dry clothes, to survivors, it said.

“Those needing medical attention have been attended to by onsite medical personnel while others have already been brought to nearby hospitals. The rest of the passengers have been offered accommodations at a nearby hotel,” the company added. (John Roson)

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this post has been updated. see update here