By Azer Parrocha

INVESTIGATION. Philippine Coast Guard, Sub-Station Hadji Muhtamad and Coast Guard Special Operations Unit-Bangsamoro conduct marine casualty investigation inside the burnt Lady Mary Joy 3 at Baluk-Baluk Island, Hadji Muhtamad, Basilan in this photo released Saturday (April 1, 2023). The Bureau of Fire Protection also conducted suppression of fire on the still burning part of the vessel using a portable water pump. (Courtesy of PCG-Basilan)

MANILA – The administration of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has distributed more than PHP700,000 in cash aid and food and non-food items to victims of a fire that broke out on a ferry while sailing in Baluk-Baluk Island in Basilan on March 29.

Department of National Defense (DND) officer-in-charge Senior Undersecretary Carlito Galvez Jr. submitted his report to the President on Saturday.

To date, Galvez said both national and local governments have assisted the ferry fire victims.

He said the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the provincial government of Basilan distributed financial assistance worth PHP640,000, and more than PHP71,000 worth of food and non-food items.

Local and provincial authorities in Basilan and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao provided hygiene kits and clothing, while the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) distributed meals.

DSWD likewise conducted psychosocial intervention for the survivors staying at its Home for Women in Mampang, Zamboanga City.

The Philippine Red Cross, meanwhile, applied first-aid treatments on survivors and provided cadaver bags, Galvez told the President.

“During the retrieval operations, it came out that out of the 18 bodies visually identified, only 17 actual cadavers were recovered from the scene,” Galvez said.

The bodies were brought to Villa Arcega Funeral Homes in Zamboanga City.

As of April 1, Galvez said authorities on the ground accounted for 28 dead, 32 missing, and 227 survivors.

Currently, two Multi-purpose Assault Crafts of the Philippine Navy that served as the incident’s first responders are still in the area conducting search, rescue and retrieval operations, Galvez added.

“Furthermore, 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,” Galvez said.

“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,” he added.

The ill-fated M/V Lady Mary Joy 3 caught fire around 11:30 p.m. Wednesday near Baluk-Baluk Island, Hadji Muhtamad, Basilan while sailing to Jolo, Sulu coming from Zamboanga City. (PNA)