PGMA meets families of victims of ferry mishap in Masbate; extends financial aid
Masbate (11 November) -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo handed P2.725-million worth of financial assistance to the victims of the sea tragedy involving the M/B Don Dexter which capsized last Nov. 4 off the coast of Dimasalang Masbate.
The families of each of those who perished in the mishap received P50,000 while the families of the 10 still missing passengers of the ill-fated vessel got P10,000 each.
Survivors were given P5,000 each.
The President's financial assistance was on top of the P25,000 given by the local governments of Masbate, Dimasalang town, and boat owner Gene Zuniega to each of the casualties. Survivors also received P1,000 each aside from food and clothing.
The President was welcomed by local government officials upon her arrival at the Palanas Central School in Palanas, where 43 of the 105 survivors came from, including Lito Atabay who lost six members of his family.
Accompanied by Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya, the President also visited the wake for Teresita Abejuella and her five-year-old adopted son John Paul, who died in the incident.
Lito Atabay related to the President a heartbreaking story about how he lost his loved ones in the mishap. His wife Rosalina, daughter Rosalie Lumagpas, three granddaughters (Cresilda, Joy-joy and Issia) and Rosale's mother-in-law Auria Basas were among the 42 who perished in the tragedy.
The elder Atabay told the President he escaped the tragedy with the help of his nephew Jose, who also survived the incident along with his cousin Stanley and Bryan Atabay, Lito's a nine-year-old grandson.
"I tried but failed to save my granddaughters since I was already unconscious and my nose was bleeding when my nephew saved me," Lito Atabay said.
After interacting with the Atabay families, the President personally handed the financial assistance to the teary-eyed Lito who expressed his deep appreciation for the assistance and the presence of the President.
"The presence alone of the President is enough to comfort us in this saddest moment of our life. There were moments I'm thinking of ending my life when looking at the lifeless bodies of my loved ones," the elder Atabay, whose family came here for All Saints day, said.
Other casualties include Michelle Ramirez, Richelyn Andaya, Dallaniel Andaya, Maricel Ornopia, Silvina Gabriel, In-In Neuva, Grace, Larganie and Lean Capellan; Nenita Matos, Charlene Gastardo, Jenny Banaag, Filipina Auman, Ana Nerbis, Consolacion Baybayon, Lanie Mahinay, Sonia Codera, Adelina Adobas, Reynaldo Arcueno, Jennifer Mantel, Nerie Almosura Badillo, Jessica Marsonia, Benita Hermosa, Olympio Blaso, Rosalina Pilapil, Marichu Apao, Parcy and Salud Abenir, Rosie Belarmino, Marilyn Lleneses, Christian Ramiso, Francisa Rondina, Grace Atazar and Lonie Mahinay.
Still missing are Justine Relox Ornopia, Anecito Urot, Jennelyn Nerbis, Giorgio Lleneses, Mylene Tambago, Minda Belarmino, Jose Agas Jr., Mark Jefferson Berlarmino, Wilmor Ternal and Junjun Desparini.
Masbate Gov. Eliza Kho, third district Congresswoman Rizalina Lanete and Dimasalang Mayor Demphna Naga thanked the President for her concern for the families and victims of the tragedy.
A sudden gust of wind (locally known as 'subasko') caused the overloaded 20-footer motorized banca bound for Bulan, Sorsogon to overturn almost an hour after it left Dimasalang town in clear weather at 2 p.m.
Maritime Administration Authority (MARINA) officer-in-charge Elena Bautista said the franchise of the boat owner has already been cancelled.
An investigation of the tragedy, the worst sea mishap since the sinking of M/V Princess of the Stars that killed 700 people five months ago, is also under way.
This was the President's third visit to the province of Masbate this year. She also arrived here last April 20 for the inauguration of the roll-on, roll-off (RO-RO) system in Kawayan, and the joint meeting of the Cabinet and National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) July 15 in Placer town. (PIA-MMIO) [top]