MV Doña Paz
Doña Paz berthed at Tacloban port in 1984.
|Port of registry:||Kagoshima|
|Launched:||April 25, 1963|
|Out of service:||December 23, 1987|
|Fate:||Sold to Sulpicio Lines|
|Port of registry:||Manila|
|Renamed:||Doña Paz in 1981|
|Refit:||After a fire onboard June 5, 1979|
|Identification:||IMO number: 5415822|
|Fate:||Caught fire and sank after a collision with the MT Vector on December 20, 1987.|
|Class and type:||Passenger ferry|
|Length:||93.1 m (305 ft)|
|Beam:||13.6 m (45 ft)|
|Speed:||18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph)|
Part of a series on the
|History of the Philippines|
MV Doña Paz was a Japanese built and Philippine-registered passenger ferry that sank after colliding with the oil tanker Vector on December 20, 1987. Built by Onomichi Zosen of Hiroshima, Japan, the ship was launched on April 25, 1963 as the Himeyuri Maru, with a passenger capacity of 608. In October 1975, the Himeyuri Maru was bought by Sulpicio Lines and renamed as the Don Sulpicio. After a fire on board in June 1979, the ship was refurbished and renamed Doña Paz.
Traveling from Leyte island to the Philippine capital of Manila, the vessel was seriously overcrowded, with at least 2,000 passengers not listed on the manifest. It has also been claimed that the ship did not have a radio and that the life-jackets were locked away. However, official blame was directed at Vector, which was found to be unseaworthy and operating without a license, lookout or qualified master. With an estimated death toll of 4,386 people and only 25 survivors, it remains the deadliest peacetime maritime disaster in history.
Doña Paz was built during 1963 by Onomichi Zosen of Onomichi, Hiroshima, Japan, and was originally named Himeyuri Maru. During the time it travelled Japanese waters, it had a passenger capacity of 608. In October 1975, it was sold to Sulpicio Lines, a Filipino operator of a fleet of passenger ferries. It was renamed by Sulpicio Lines as Don Sulpicio, and later, Doña Paz. On June 5, 1979, the vessel was gutted by fire while en route from Manila to Cebu. All 1,164 aboard were rescued but the vessel was beached and declared a constructive total loss. The wreck was repurchased from the underwriters by Sulpicio Lines, and the vessel was refurbished and returned to service as Doña Paz. At the time of its sinking, the ship was traveling the route of Manila → Tacloban → Catbalogan → Manila and vice versa, making voyages twice a week.
1987 collision with MT Vector
On December 20, 1987, at 06:30, Philippine Standard Time, Doña Paz departed from Tacloban, Leyte, for Manila, with a stopover at Catbalogan, Samar. The vessel was due in Manila at 04:00 the next day, and it was reported that it last made radio contact at about 20:00. However, subsequent reports indicated that Doña Paz did not have a radio. At about 22:30, the ferry was at Dumali Point, along the Tablas Strait, near Marinduque. A survivor later said that the weather at sea that night was clear, but the sea was choppy. While most of the passengers slept, Doña Paz collided with MT Vector, an oil tanker en route from Bataan to Masbate. Vector was carrying 1,050,000 litres (8,800 US bbl) or 1041 tonnes (1148 US tons) of gasoline and other petroleum products owned by Caltex Philippines.
Upon collision, Vector's cargo ignited and caused a fire on the ship that spread onto Doña Paz. Survivors recalled sensing the crash and an explosion, causing panic on the vessel. One of them, Paquito Osabel, recounted that the flames spread rapidly throughout the ship, and that the sea all around the ship itself was afire. Another survivor, Philippine Constabulary corporal Luthgardo Niedo, claimed that the lights aboard had gone out minutes after the collision, that there were not any life vests to be found on Doña Paz, and that the crewmen were running around in panic with the other passengers and none of the crew gave any orders nor made any attempt to organize the passengers. It was later said that the life jacket lockers had been locked up. The survivors were forced to jump off the ship and swim among charred bodies in flaming waters around the ship, with some using suitcases as makeshift flotation devices. Doña Paz sank within two hours of the collision, while Vector sank within four hours. Both ships sank in about 545 meters (1,788 ft) of water in the shark-infested Tablas Strait.
Sailors, medics, and officers as well as the captain of a passing inter-island ship, MS Don Claudio, witnessed the explosion of the two ships and, after an hour, found the survivors of Doña Paz. The officers of Don Claudio threw a net for the survivors to climb to. In all, only 26 survivors were retrieved from the water: 24 of them were passengers from Doña Paz while the other 2 were crewmen from Vector's 13-man crew. A 25th survivor from Doña Paz, Valeriana Duma, was not accounted for originally by officials, but later revealed herself through the GMA Network program Wish Ko Lang! in 2012; at 14, she was also the youngest passenger of Doña Paz to survive. None of the crew of Doña Paz survived. Most of the survivors sustained burns from jumping into the flaming waters. Doctors and nurses aboard the vessel tended to their injuries. It reportedly took eight hours before Philippine maritime authorities learned of the accident, and another eight hours to initiate search-and-rescue operations.
Investigation of the causes of the incident
According to the initial investigation conducted by the Philippine Coast Guard, only one apprentice member of the crew of Doña Paz was monitoring the ship's bridge when the accident occurred. Other officers were either drinking beer or watching television in the crew's recreation quarters, while the ship's captain was watching a movie on his Betamax machine in his cabin. A similar testimony was given by one of the survivors, Luthgardo Niedo, wherein he stated that a fellow constabulary soldier informed him of "an ongoing party with laughter and loud music" at the ship's bridge with the captain as one of the attendees.
Survivors claimed that it was possible that Doña Paz may have carried as many as 3,000 to 4,000 passengers. The signs that they considered were that they saw passengers sleeping along corridors, on the boat decks, and on cots with three or four people on them.
According to the initial announcement made by Sulpicio Lines, the official passenger manifest of Doña Paz recorded 1,493 passengers and 59 crew members aboard. According to Sulpicio Lines, the ferry was able to carry 1,424 passengers. A revised manifest released on December 23, 1987, showed 1,583 passengers and 58 crew members on Doña Paz, with 675 persons boarding the ferry in Tacloban, and 908 coming aboard in Catbalogan. However, an anonymous official of Sulpicio Lines told UPI that, since it was the Christmas season, tickets were usually purchased illegally aboard the ship at a cheaper rate, and those passengers were not listed on the manifest. The same official added that holders of complimentary tickets and non-paying children younger than the age of four were likewise not listed on the manifest.
Of the 21 bodies that had been recovered and identified as passengers on the ship five days after the accident, only one of the fatalities was listed on the official manifest. Of the 24 passengers who survived, only five were listed on the manifest.
On December 28, 1987, Representative Raul Daza of Northern Samar claimed that at least 2,000 passengers aboard Doña Paz were not on the ship's manifest. He based that number on a list of names furnished by relatives and friends of missing people believed aboard the ferry, the names having been compiled by radio and television stations in Tacloban. The names of these 2,000+ missing passengers were published in pages 29 to 31 of the December 29, 1987, edition of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. At least 79 public school teachers perished in the collision.
During February 1988 the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation stated, on the basis of interviews with relatives, that there were at least 3,099 passengers and 59 crew on board, giving 3,134 on-board fatalities. During January 1999 a presidential task force report estimated, on the basis of court records and more than 4,100 settlement claims, that there were 4,341 passengers. Subtracting the 25 surviving passengers, and adding 58 crew gives 4,374 on-board fatalities. Adding the 11 dead from the Vector crew, the total becomes 4,385.
Reactions and aftermath
President Corazon Aquino described the accident as "a national tragedy of harrowing proportions...[the Filipino people's] sadness is all the more painful because the tragedy struck with the approach of Christmas". Pope John Paul II, Japanese Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita and Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom conveyed their official messages of condolence. Given the estimated death toll, Time magazine and others have termed the sinking of Doña Paz "the deadliest peacetime maritime disaster of the 20th century".
Sulpicio Lines announced three days after the accident that Doña Paz was insured for ₱25,000,000 (about US$631,000 in 2019 dollars), and it was willing to indemnify the survivors the amount of ₱20,000 (US$542 during 2019) for each victim. Days later, hundreds of the victims' kin staged a mass rally at Rizal Park, demanding that the ship owners likewise indemnify the families of those not listed on the manifest, as well as to give a full accounting of the missing.
Nonetheless, the Board of Marine Inquiry eventually exculpated Sulpicio Lines of fault in the accident. Subsequent inquiries revealed that Vector was operating without a license, lookout or properly qualified master. During 1999 the Supreme Court of the Philippines ruled that it was the owners of Vector who were liable to indemnify the victims of the collision. Some of the claims pursued against either Sulpicio Lines or the owners of Vector, such as those filed by the Cañezal family (who lost two members) and the Macasas family (who lost three members) were adjudicated by the Supreme Court, which found that even the families of victims whose names did not appear on the official manifest were entitled to indemnity. Caltex Philippines, which had chartered Vector, was likewise cleared of financial liability.
- MV Doña Paz
- Moris Apura, 37, of Borongan, Eastern Samar
- Renato Asisturga, 19
- Aludia Bacsal, 18
- Salvador Bacsal, 44
- Almario Balanay, 44
- Generoso Batola, 29, of Borongan, Eastern Samar
- Jose Cabrito, 25, of Calbiga, Western Samar
- Samuel Carillo, 27
- Severino Carrion, 25
- Zosimo de la Rama, 21
- Dominador Depayo, 23
- Valeriana Duma, 14 (youngest survivor)
- Alejandro Estuita, 21
- Arnel Galang, 18
- Mario Leganda, 25
- Armando Lomungue/Lominuque, 28
- Constancio Mabag, 21
- Gilbert Mabutol, 15
- Francisco Minggote
- Luthgardo Niedo, 26
- Panfilo Olalia, 34
- Eugenio Orot, 27
- Paquito Ozabel, 42
- Sofronio "Puyok" Sabuco, 44, of Calbiga, Western Samar
- Pedro Sorema, 17
- MT Vector
A memorial honoring the victims of Doña Paz is at the Pieta Park in Catbalogan. Located at adjacent to St. Bartholomew Church and Saint Mary's College of Catbalogan, the park now serves as a public space for families and friends of the victims.
The wreck of Doña Paz was revisited on April 13, 2019 by the RV Petrel, with video footage later released on December 19. It lies upright at a depth of 500 meters (1640 ft.). The wreck of the Vector was found lying 2200 meters (7218 ft.) away in the same state. Both wrecks are in good condition.
In popular culture
In 2018 a horror movie titled Aurora was released, inspired by the events of the tragedy.
- List of maritime disasters
- List of maritime disasters in the 20th century
- List of shipwrecks in 1987
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Valeriana [Duma] survived using a life jacket given by her employer, but her survival was never recorded by the authorities. If it had been, she would have been the youngest of the few survivors.
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- Dona Paz officers were not at posts
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The Coast Guard said they believed the two survivors of the tanker, identified as Second Mate Reynaldo Tarife and Quartermaster Francisco Burnillo [sic], may be holding the key to the circumstances...
- Callo, Kathleen (December 20, 1988). "Sea voyage: Risky business". Manila Standard. Manila Standard News, Inc. p. 4. Retrieved June 6, 2020.
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- Photograph of the MV Doña Paz (Courtesy of the Philippine Ship Spotters Society)
- DNV Annex 1 Passenger vessel Evacuation descriptions P36
- Mimar Ship Index – Ship ownership history
- Newsflash – Experts Cite Perils of Roll-Off, Roll-On (Ro-Ro) Ferries
- Sulpicio Lines vessels in major marine mishaps
- Hazardcards: Doña Paz
- To vαυάγιο του MV Doña Paz 20η Δεκεμβρίου του 1987