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Skipper abandoned doomed ship, say Filipino crew men

Foreign Affairs Executive Director for Migrant Workers Affairs Ricardo Endaya (3rd from right) and Foreign Affairs Speacial Assistant Enrico Fos (2nd from left) welcome the Filipino crewmembers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. DFA Photo

No less than Filipino crew members of the ill-starred Costa Concordia said the cruise liner’s captain abandoned the ship as it foundered over rocky shallow waters off the Italian island of Giglio last Friday night.

The Filipinos who flew in Thursday from Rome confirmed news reports that ship captain Francesco Schettino was seen on the dock by rescued passengers who were then only approaching the island’s pier in life boats.

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The Filipinos landed Thursday at Ninoy Aquino International Airport’s (Naia) Terminal 1 after a long flight from Rome and a brief stopover in Hong Kong.

Thirty-two of the 296 Filipino crew members arrived at 10:30 a.m. on a Cathay Pacific flight. They included cocktail waitress Mariliz Locsin.

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Hypothermia

The Cainta, Rizal, native was one of three Filipino crew members who suffered minor injuries in the incident. She reportedly suffered from hypothermia, the drastic lowering of her body temperature.

Another 68 crew members were scheduled to fly in at noon Thursday on a Thai Airways flight from Bangkok.

This weekend, the rest of the Filipinos are expected to return on four international flights, according to officials of Magsaysay Maritime Corp., (MMC) the ship workers’ local manning agency.

Aside from MMC executives, Department of Foreign Affairs and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration officials welcomed the liner crew at Naia.

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Schettino, tagged as the “most hated man in Italy” by the daily Corriere della Serra, has been placed under house arrest for manslaughter as the death toll in the tragedy rose to 11 with some 20 people still missing, said an Agence France-Presse report.

Skipper arrested

He was arrested Tuesday on charges that included abandonment of ship for allegedly leaving the Costa Concordia after it had tipped over and before all its 3,000 passengers and 1,000 crew could be rescued.

An Italian port authority recording of a heated telephone exchange between Schettino and a coast guard officer as the tragedy unfolded late on the night of Jan. 13 heard Schettino ignoring an order by the officer to return to the stricken vessel.

Jailed in the central Italian town of Grosetto, Schettino has denied abandoning his ship.

But Filipino chef BenignoIgnacio Jr. said otherwise.

“Our captain may have done his best, but clearly, he also made a big mistake. His fault was he abandoned ship while the ship’s crew, including us Filipinos, were busy saving the lives of passengers, including a number of children,” Ignacio said.

He said that “at that particular moment, our priority was helping the passengers before ourselves.”

Steward John Gonzales described their experience as “traumatic.”

“But I’m very happy to be back, not only because I would be reunited with my loved ones (wife Ruby and daughter Jewel), but also with the thought that we Filipino crew members were able to accomplish what we were required to do in that particular incident. We were able to save a number of passengers, distributing life jackets and guiding them to lifeboats,” said Gonzales.

Referring to fellow crew members Ralph David and Aldrin Sawal, among others, he said, “We did what we were supposed to, using skills we picked up during (Safety of Life at Sea) trainings.”

The 29-year-old from Pasay City said it was “unfortunate that our captain allegedly abandoned ship.”

Gonzales declined to say anything more about Schettino.

Like most of the crew, Gonzales arrived carrying only a plastic bag holding “some of the very few things I saved, a pair of shorts, a T-shirt plus the slippers I’m wearing right now.”

But he said he was “also happy to know that Magsaysay is fully supporting us.”

Medical tests

Before the crew’s arrival, the Philippine Daily Inquirer interviewed Marlon Roño, the shipping company’s president.

Roño had some “good news, our response to the major, major incident.”

“All 296 Filipino crew members of the Costa Concordia will definitely be redeployed. They will be included in the crew rotation program and given their next vessel assignments. But all of them need to undergo post-accident physical and psychological medical tests in some hospitals in Metro Manila. We have to make sure they’re really OK,” he said.

Before their trip home, the crew members were each given 500 euro in Rome by the company that owned the ship, Carnival Corp.

Roño added: “Aside from immediately redeployment, they will each get $3,750 (about P163,125) as compensation for lost personal belongings. They’re also assured of their monthly salary (ranging from $600 to $3,000) for the first three months of their eight-month contract. They’re on their third month, but there’s a strong possibility that they would get paid for the remaining five months in their contract. We’re working on that.”

He was “happy for our Pinoy crew, who are mostly hotel service staff,” said the Magsaysay executive.

“It’s good to know the crew was not too traumatized by the accident. It was good the accident happened when everybody was awake and the ship was close to shore,” he added in Filipino.

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TAGS: accidents, Costa Concordia, DFA, Francesco Schettino, Italy, ofws, Shipping, Tourism
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