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Philippines files criminal charges over ferry deaths

THE Philippines government has filed criminal charges against the owner and master of the Princess of the Stars a year on from its sinking. Sulpicio Lines' 24-year-old, 23,824 gt ferry Princess of the Stars capsized in typhoon Fengshan on June 21 last year, leaving over 700 passengers and crew either dead or missing. On Monday Sulpicio Lines vice-president Edgar Go and the ship’s master Florencio Marimon were charged with reckless imprudence resulting to multiple homicide in a Manila court, Philippines Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera told local press. Mr Go is a member of the family that owns Sulpicio Lines. Capt Marimon’s body was never recovered after the sinking and it is believed he perished. State prosecutors said they still brought charges against Capt Marimon as there was no death certificate submitted to the authorities. The charges come after a year of investigations by a Philippines Department of Justice panel. In a 48-page resolution the panel found Mr Go was “inarguably involved” in deciding whether the vessel should have set sail or not from Manila with a typhoon moving in. It also said Capt Marimon was negligent to have set sail after a typhoon three signal was raised.
The panel also recommended further investigation into Sulpicio Lines masters Rizaldy Ponteres and Benajmin Eugenio, and Philippines Coastguard petty officer Felix Rizaldy Sardan. The main focus of investigations into the sinking of the Princess of the Stars has been as to who was responsible for decision allowing the ferry to set sail from Manila even though a typhoon alert had been issued. Sulpicio Lines' passenger fleet was suspended at the beginning of July last year following the tragedy, although the company has continues to operate cargo services. The ferry company has been involved in three other major tragedies, including the sinking of the Dona Paz in 1987, which left over 4,000 dead. The company has always in the past escaped liability.

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