Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Sunday, July 06, 2008

More fishers dead, missing than ‘Princess’ victims -- Gordon

More fishermen have died and remain missing than the number of passengers on board the M/V Princess of the Stars but they have not received equal attention and help from the national government, Senator Richard Gordon said Friday.

The government should give equal attention to the search for the missing fishermen, including 87 from Cadiz City in Negros Occidental, and in the identification of the dead to give closure to the families of the victims, he said.

Gordon, chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross, told the Inquirer that 119 fishing vessels, 53 of which are from Western Visayas, were hit by Typhoon “Frank,” leaving 324 dead, 804 missing, and 354 survivors for a total of 1,482 fishermen.

The M/V Princess of the Stars, which capsized off Sibuyan Island in Romblon at the height of the typhoon on June 21, had 866 passengers, of which the Coast Guard has reported 51 dead and 318 missing.

Two weeks after the typhoon, Gordon said there were still unidentified bodies of fishermen that were being buried in coastal communities where they were washed ashore because there were no experts being sent to help identify them.

In Cadiz City, for example, Mayor Salvador Escalante revealed that five unidentified bodies found in its waters have been buried in the city’s cemetery.

Bodies of 43 other fishermen were also recovered from the waters off and around Cadiz, all of whom have been identified to have come from this city and its neighboring areas.

Gordon said he was sending a University of the Philippines forensic team headed by Dr. Raquel Fortun to Cadiz City, and a National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) team to exhume and identify the unnamed dead.

Gordon added he asked Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez to help the PNRC secure orders to exhume unidentified bodies that were buried in areas like Masbate or Romblon so forensic experts can identify them.

He also called on Gonzalez and Local Governments Secretary Ronaldo Puno to help stress the need for local governments not to bury at once the bodies they find and instead immediately report their presence to the appropriate agencies and the PNRC for action.

Gordon said he informed Gonzalez and Puno that the PNRC has been informed that four unidentified bodies were buried in Claveria, Masbate, some bodies in San Pascual, Masbate, and 40 bodies in Burias Island. By Carla Gomez - Inquirer.net

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