Rescued passengers from Mercraft 3 at the CM Recto Provincial Hospital in Infanta, Quezon. Credit: Getty
More than 250 survivors have been pulled to safety after a ferry capsized in Philippines waters on 21 December, while five people have been confirmed dead.
The ferry, Mercraft 3, was revealed to have carried 257 passengers and crew, more than the 251 people listed on its manifest. The vessel could accommodate up to 286 people.
Coastguard spokesman Armand Balilo said he believed that all those on board the ferry have been accounted for.
Mercraft 3 was en route to Polillo Island when it capsized in stormy weather off the town of Real in Quezon province.
The casualty happened 30 years after the sinking of Dona Paz regarded as the Philippines' worst maritime disaster, has highlighted the poor ferry safety record of the Southeast Asian country.
Doña Paz, a passenger ferry, sank on 20 December 1987 and has been referred to as Asia’s Titanic. The incident resulted in an estimated 4,386 fatalities, with just 24 survivors.
The Philippines-flagged ship was making its twice-weekly journey from Leyte Island to the capital, Manila, when it collided with oil tanker MT Vector off the coast of Dumali Point, Mindoro. The tanker was carrying 8,800 barrels of petroleum products that caught fire and rapidly spread to the passenger ferry, resulting in the deaths of many people.
The initial accident investigation by the Philippine Coast Guard and subsequent inquiries identified a swathe of safety violations related to equipment and system inadequacy and human error on board both vessels.
The number of fatal ferry accidents in the Philippines is such that the International Maritime Organization held a conference in Manila in April 2015 to discuss enhancing the safety of passenger ships.
At the conference, the Manila Statement was adopted to acknowledge the need to improve the safety of passenger vessels, addressing what the IMO called the “continuing unacceptable loss of life and damage to the environment”.