Govt gives P0.7M to victims of Basilan-ferry fire

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OVER P700,000 worth of aid was extended by the government to passengers who were affected by the Basilan ferry fire last week, according to the Department of National Defense (DND).

The Presidential Communications Office (PCO) said through a statement that DND Senior Undersecretary Carlito G. Galvez Jr. made the disclosure in his report, which he submitted to President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. last Saturday.

According to Galvez, the bulk (or P640,000) of the assistance provided by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the provincial government were financial aid. The remaining P71,000 were food and non-food items.

Meanwhile, the local and provincial authorities in Basilan and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) provided the victims hygiene kits and clothing, according to Galvez.

Tthe Philippine Red Cross provided first-aid treatment to the survivors and provided cadaver bags,

The fire, which engulfed the M/V Lady Mary Joy 3, happened during the evening of March 29, while the ferry was traversing its way to Baluk-Baluk island, in the province of Basilan.

Citing reports on the ground, Galvez said there were 28 dead, 32 missing and 227 survivors were recorded from the fire as of April 1.

“During the retrieval operations, it came out that out of the 18 bodies visually identified, only 17 actual cadavers were recovered from the scene. Subsequently, the said bodies were brought to Villa Arcega Funeral Homes in Zamboanga City for proper identification and disposition,” Galvez was quoted in the statement as saying.

He noted the Philippine Navy is still conducting search, rescue and retrieval operations in the area where the incident happened.

“The OCD [Office of Civil Defense], in collaboration with the local agencies, continues the accounting of the victims (casualties and survivors) in order to process the necessary assistance and insurance claims. Our AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] and PCG troops are also still in the area providing all the needed support and assistance to the victims’ families and the community,” Galvez said.

Based on initial investigations, the fire started from the accommodation area of the ferry before spreading to the kitchen.