Malacañang on Tuesday offered sympathies to the families of the seven victims who died after a ferry carrying 134 passengers and crew members caught fire near the coast of Real, Quezon on Monday.
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said the fatalities were identified as Viola Impreso, 47; Marivic Samareta, 61; Edna Balanac, 64; Mina Enciso, 57; Charito Escareces, 57; Crisanto Debelles, 51; and Andy Tejares, 54.
Among those who perished is the captain’s mother, the PCG said.
“Malacañang is extending condolences to families who lost their loved ones from the tragedy that took place near the port of Real in the province of Quezon where a fire broke out on a vessel),” Acting Palace spokesperson Martin Andanar said in a Palace press briefing.
He also assured the public that an investigation is ongoing to determine the cause of the fire.
PCG spokesperson Commodore Armando Balilo said the fast craft vessel MV Mercraft 2 caught fire around 6:30 a.m. on Monday as it carried passengers and crew from Polillo Island to Real.
Balilo added that the PCG has custody of the captain of the vessel.
In a radio interview, Balilo said “we have custody of the captain of the fast craft. We will start asking questions today to make it clear the exact site the vessel caught fire. The investigation will begin tomorrow.” The boat captain was identified as John Lerry Escareces.
The Department of Transportation and Maritime Industry Authority will also reportedly conduct parallel investigations.
Investigators have yet to determine the cause of fire, but initial investigation revealed it started from the engine room of the vessel.
Balilo said that based on initial inquiries, there were witnesses who said that they heard an explosion from the engine room.
The fire was declared under control at around 9:33 a.m. while all passengers and crew of the vessel were accounted for by 11:30 a.m.
Balilo said the Coast Guard will also examine all physical evidence to determine the cause of the fire.
He said all the passengers were listed in the vessel’s manifest which ruled out that the weather had nothing to do with the incident.
The PCG official said the vessel “is not very old but we do not know if it is prone to fires because it is made of fiberglass.”
He added that the PCG “will hold accountable those who need to be held accountable.”