Thursday, June 26, 2008

Blame Media for Philippines Ferry Disaster

“There is a typhoon locally named Frank, in the direction of ...,” the Philippines weather bureau, “PAGASA” announced. “And that as of Thursday, June l9, Frank was leading northeast of central Visayas province. All seafaring vessels were advised to safety and to cancel scheduled trip.” These were the faint announcement and warning that emanated from the weather tracking agency.


Philippine media spent only a number of lines in print and a few seconds in airtime dealing with the weather disturbances. Media was occupied with politics as President Gloria Arroyo designated VP Noli de Castro to assume the function of the president during the 10-day trip of the president to United State –the president duties are seldom delegated to a veep since Marcos’ martial law. More lines and airtimes were allotted to Ces Drilon and the kidnappers’ ransom payments. Meanwhile, MV Princess of the Stars of Sulpicio Shipping Lines was already in her route when typhoon Frank gathered strength upon its landfall in Eastern Samar. It changed direction and veered toward Central Luzon by Friday afternoon according to PAGASA Director Dr. Prisco Nilo. The typhoon made another landfall on Saturday afternoon over Romblon province, almost in Luzon Region. All the areas along the typhoon path were devastated and countless residents were rendered homeless. More fatalities were reported when it should have been avoided if preparation was made or forewarned through the typhoon media coverage.


Here came the ferry Princess of the Stars meeting the typhoon right on her route off the waters of Sibuyan Island. To borrow the words of the inquiry board investigating the worst maritime disaster the country had: “She’s like a piece of cork being tossed up and down by giant waves in the vast ocean.” Only very few, 57 as of the last count, managed to get out alive out of 750 estimated passengers. Many were either trapped to death, perished in the commotion, or drowned in the ensuing upheaval.


With the resultant negative impact, devastations, and casualties; media were scrambling, rushing for headline stories, some were in front of relief operations instead of rescue missions. They are often caught out of coverage area and too far where the action is.


These are often the cases. They are always in a doubtful situations and tending us to believe that they keep going through negative media mileage.

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