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Obama offers sympathies to Fengshen victims

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama

The presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee and Illinois state senator Barack Obama conveyed his sympathies and condolonces to the people of the Philippines through President Gloria Arroyo, after the country was struck over the weekend by Typhoon Fengshen.

Obama also extended his regrets for not being able to meet Mrs. Arroyo who is on a 10-day official visit in the United States and met up with President George W. Bush at the White House.

The senator from Illinois stressed the strong bond between the Philippines and the United States, taking note of the two countries partnership during the Cold War era and during the Second World War. Obama also pointed out that the Philippines is also an important ally in the on-going war on terror.

He also expressed his desire on meeting Arroyo in the future and working closely with the people of the Philippines.

He also urged the Bush administration to provide more aid to the Philippines in the wake of the retrieval of victims of Typhoon Fengshen who drowned or were lost at sea.

Obama urged the "US government to provide emergency support to alleviate the suffering caused by the catastrophic natural disaster."

Typhoon Fengshen lashed through the islands of the Philippines last June 21 to 22 causing mud floods, landslides and the capsizing of a passenger ferry, the MV Priness of the Stars, killing more than 700 passengers on board off the coast of Romblon island.

The National Disaster Coordinating Agency of the Philippines reported that five days after the ferry tragedy, only 48 passengers survived and rescuers were able to retrieve 67 bodies.

Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza also reported that 138 fishing vessels were reported missing as a result of Typhoon Fengshen.

A cargo vessel, the MV Lake Paoay carrying 5,000 metric tons of coal from the mines in Semirara island was also lost off the coast of Iloilo province.

Marine inquiry begins

The Board of Marine Inquiry of the Philippines was convened Wednesday on the possible criminal and civil liability of the owners of the passenger ferry MV Princess of the Stars.

Rear Admiral Ramon Liwag ordered the management of Sulpicio Lines to submit several documents such as certificates of conveniences, permits to depart port, navigational manuals and other important papers by June 27.

Liwag was also hopeful that the ferry's captain, Florencio Marimon, Sr. survived the mishap and shed light on what really happened.

During Wednesday's inquiry, Sulpicio Executive Vice-President Edgar Go assured the panel that the ferry was in top condition.

Liwag questioned Go as to how the ferry was cleared to sail Friday night when Typhoon Fengshen was plotted by the weather bureau to strike the area Cebu province were the ferry was destined.

The inquiry told Sulpicio Lines that as of June 2007, the Philippine Coast Guard was mandated under a Memorandum Circular stating, "restricting movements during bad weather, vessels of any size are banned from travel when public storm signal 3 and 4 are raised within the point of origin, route and destination."

The representative of Sulpicio Lines denied any knowledge of such a circular.

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