Roxas seeks expanded probe on Sulpicio Lines for maritime safety; cites gaps in hazardous pesticide handling, insurance coverage

Senator Mar Roxas called for an expanded and comprehensive Senate investigation on the sea tragedy involving Sulpicio Lines' M/V Princess of the Stars that has led to hundreds dead and missing, as well as the discovery of hazardous chemicals and insufficient insurance coverage.

Roxas, who hails from Western Visayas, filed a Senate resolution (Senate Resolution No. 480) in aid of legislation that would amend existing laws in order to upgrade maritime safety standards so that it would conform to the same strict safeguards found in the airline industry.
"Allowing a passenger ship to sail with tons of hazardous chemicals in its cargo, a string of sea mishaps to its name and still not enough insurance protection in case of damages to the environment and local communities is a case study in poor governance. We demand not just answers but concrete solutions so that this would never ever happen again," Roxas stressed.

"We are an archipelagic country sandwiched by seas and oceans. We are a seafaring nation. We should be a global example of maritime safety, not be on the Guinness records for the world's biggest sea tragedies," he stressed.

"Let's look at the latest Sulpicio tragedy not as an isolated case but as a manifestation of appallingly weak corporate and public governance," he added.
Roxas, the Liberal Party President, noted that Section 9 of Presidential Decree No. 1144, the Charter of the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority, appears not to make a distinction as to the kind of vessel allowed for the transporting of duly-registered pesticides.
"It boggles the mind how and why this hazardous cargo was allowed in a passenger ferry in the first place? The vagueness of this law, coupled by authorities' incompetence to interpret the law in favor of consumer safety, may have been putting passengers' lives at risk even in previous years. The Senate inquiry will result in legislation to clarify all guidelines, orders, and laws and skew it in favor of passenger rights and safety," he said.
Aside from this, Roxas said the ships insurance coverage is insufficient vis-à-vis what's common in the industry, as it is limited only to passengers and cargo. The ship, he said, did not have protective indemnity insurance coverage, which would answer for damages caused to the ship and/or the environment.

The Senator said "I and other industry-standard comprehensive insurance coverage, may already be made mandatory under the existing Republic Act No. 9295, or the Domestic Shipping Development Act of 2004."
"Again, we must ask our regulators why did they stick to bare minimums in the law and not require wider insurance coverage for shipping operators, especially for a company that is associated with sea tragedies over the past several years? The Senate will look into this and the owners of Sulpicio Lines as well as the regulatory bodies concerned must explain such deadly gaps before the victims' families and the public at large," Roxas said.

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