Friday, July 18, 2008

Cebu, if we dont act against Sulpicio, blood will be in our hands

Revolting that many Cebuanos particularly businessmen and even church leaders are pressuring government to lift Sulpicio's suspension. We have never learned from the past marine disasters of Sulpicio that claimed thousands of lives. The poor who are forced to take the boat deserve protection. While their pockets are shallow, while they contribute less to bug businesses bottomline, they too are human beings. Lives are at stake here. Let's not allow money to rule our way of thinking.

I can all fellow Cebuanos, let us unite against Sulpicio's brazen act of profiteering.


Sucking up to Sulpicio

Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—The aggressiveness of Sulpicio Lines only goes to show that we do not have the rule of law, only the rule of lawyers. The shipping line has lashed out by filing suits and motions before the courts, to keep investigators at bay and tie up potential critics in litigation. Everyone knows the sports dictum that a good defense is a good offense, but this is ridiculous: Sulpicio is trying to dribble itself out of any accountability.

To God alone belongs the blame, Sulpicio says, and on its side it has, as proof positive of divine exculpation, the moral endorsement of one of God's very own shepherds. Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos, filled with Christian concern for the poor little rich Go family, the owners of Sulpicio, hopped over to tug at President Macapagal-Arroyo's skirt to give a little concession to keep the Gos from starving to death. It was, of course, no little concession that the bishop was interceding, with child-like innocence, to obtain. For what the President conceded, as a result of Pueblos' pastoral concern, was for Sulpicio to be allowed to continue the mainstay of its operations: cargo shipping.

The Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Cebu added the weight of Mammon to the intercession of God's shepherd, by endorsing Pueblos' request. The businessmen didn't specifically endorse Pueblos, of course (it would be too patently a commercial conspiracy to do so), but in essence, they endorsed the Butuan prelate's logic by pleading financial hardship for themselves. If they were deprived of access to Sulpicio's cargo holds, it would be catastrophic for themselves and thus for all Cebuanos. To borrow Louis XIV's phrase, the province is ourselves.

The Butuan bishop appealing for presidential clemency, echoed by the commercial sector declaring humanity is secondary to their bottom line, all points to a culture that confuses one's own interests with the public good. In this, public officials are no different from the bishop and the Gos' commercial chums.

The Gos, after all, had already obtained the satisfaction of witnessing Cebu's congressmen ganging up on government bureaucrats instead of zeroing in on the shipping firm. The Gos, after all, are among the movers and shakers in the island province, thus clergy, merchants and officialdom are merely protecting one of their own. The appeals made by clergy and business councils, combined with the alacrity with which Cebuano congressmen focused on national government agencies while forgetting to take to task a prominent commercial family from their province, show that the bottom line will trump social justice every time.

To borrow a line from Inquirer columnist Randy David, the reason all this can happen, of course, is that the public allows it, following the lead of our very own institutions. Officialdom has known all along that our weather bureau is understaffed, under-funded and ill-equipped; government officials know we have no real Coast Guard to speak of; and maritime insiders have long been grumbling about the head of Marina being a know-nothing do-nothing who owed his job to crony influence. And yet Congress is shocked--shocked!--at it all.

And the public? It had trusted its loved ones to a shipping line expected to have learned the lessons of its tragic past; and to authorities meant to keep commercial greed in check. And now that it wants to recover their dead and give them the benefit of Christian burial--and an answer, at least, as to how and why their loved ones died, Sulpicio responds by unleashing a storm of court cases and injunctions, and a list of bureaucratic requirements to tie up families with red tape for a generation to come. If Sulpicio must pay, it will only do so after it has maximized interest on its insurance payoffs.

The public, in the end, is all bark and no bite. No one, it seems, is prepared to deprive Sulpicio of income to pressure it into at least submitting to a thorough investigation and the kind of management shakeup that should be the minimum fallout from a tragedy of this scale.

Monday, July 14, 2008

After reading this, will Cardinal Vidal still allow Sulpicio to sail?

Earlier, our good Cardinal of Cebu, His Emminence was quoted in the local papers having assked government to allow Sulpicio to set sail. I hope he was misquoted.


MV Scandalous

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:35:00 07/14/2008

MANILA, Philippines- The list of accidents Sulpicio Lines has figured in makes for chilling reading. According to Lloyd’s of London, Sulpicio ships have been involved in 45 accidents since 1980, including seven sinkings. (The complete list can be downloaded as a file at

The seventh, of course, was the sinking of MV Princess of the Stars last month, at the height of typhoon “Frank.” Lloyd’s, the world’s leading clearinghouse of maritime information, estimated the casualty toll of the latest accident at “150 dead and 700 missing.”

Each death, each missing person claim, was avoidable, if government authorities or the shipping line’s management itself had recognized the company’s safety record for what it was: a scandal, an outrage. We have raised this question before, we raise it again: If an airline had this kind of record, would it still be in business?

We do not need to dwell on the seven engine-trouble accidents involving three ships. (We cannot but note, however, that one stalled ship, the Filipina Princess, was “stranded for 3 days.”)

The record of fires breaking out on board is a little more worrying. Four of the six incidents happened in the last eight years; a fire struck the ill-fated Princess of the Orient several months before the ship capsized (in the middle of a storm); in 2003 a fire on the Iloilo Princess was so severe it caused the ship to roll over. No casualties were reported then, but the vessel was declared a total loss.

The record of Sulpicio ships running aground is even more disturbing. In 28 years, the firm has suffered 19 groundings, including four ships that sustained so much damage they were subsequently declared a total loss. At least two ships ran aground during typhoons. One ran aground and caught fire.

The record of collisions does not build confidence either. A Sulpicio Lines vessel has collided with another ship six times since 1992; a collision has occurred every two or three years.

It is the record of sunk ships, however, that proves that Sulpicio Lines does not deserve its franchise. In particular, the sinking of three ships in the middle of a typhoon—one every 10 years, quite literally—tells us that the shipping company has failed the basic test of common carriers. To assure the safety of its passengers.

We’ve said this before; we’ll say it again. After Doña Marilyn sank in 1988, while sailing in the middle of a typhoon (“Ruby”) and claiming 150 lives, and after Princess of the Orient sank in heavy seas in 1998 (during typhoon “Vicki”) and claiming 150 lives, why did Sulpicio allow its flagship Princess of the Stars to set sail in the middle of typhoon “Frank”?

Its safety record should have told Sulpicio to wait the storm out. (As we’ve noted, at least two other Sulpicio vessels were involved in an accident while sailing during a typhoon.) Its failure to do so can only mean that having the worst accident record among the country’s major shipping lines did not mean a thing to Sulpicio management. If they got away with murder before, what’s another storm, another sinking?

It is true that suspending Sulpicio’s franchise would cause some economic dislocation, but that is the price we have to pay, the price we should have paid many years and thousands of lives ago, to protect the public. That we seem to lack the political will to do so (as we wrote yesterday and we write again today) “all points to a culture that confuses one’s own interests with the public good.”