A Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) personnel is seen standing on a small boat, sailing towards the 2GO vessel St. Francis Xavier, which ran aground in Coron Bay yesterday.

2GO’s merchant vessel, St. Francis Xavier, carrying nearly 1,400 passengers, ran aground yesterday afternoon one nautical mile from the pier in Coron town, according to passengers onboard who are seeking help.

Bert Jeric Ma Zeta, who left Coron Port with his wife and four kids, said that vessel suddenly stopped sailing around 3 p.m., less than 20 minutes after departing on June 8. They saw the ship lower its anchor, and shortly after, they were told that there was a repair needed that would take 30 minutes to an hour.

He said the vessel experienced trouble with its generator set (genset), leading to a loss of power. Consequently, the ship drifted into shallow waters and became stuck, unable to navigate or free itself from the area.

“Sabi nila kahapon, bago mangyari ito—yong huminto na nga po kami, nabahura na nga—sabi ng mga [crew] dito, 30 minutes to one hour lang. After nyan, wala ng update, kaya yong ibang pasahero ay nagagalit na,” Zeta told Palawan News on Sunday morning, June 9.

(They told us yesterday, before this happened—when we had already stopped and were aground—that it would only take 30 minutes to an hour, according to the crew here. After that, there were no more updates, which is why some of the passengers are starting to get angry.)

He said they were provided with meals last night, but this morning, no free breakfast was given until the crew was approached by angry passengers.

Ernie Caballas, another passenger, said a banca delivered bread to the vessel, which was then distributed to them.

“Meron dumating na banca na may dalang bread. [I] don’t know if it’s enough to feed more than 1,400 passengers,” he said.

Last night, many passengers, overwhelmed by the heat, chose to sleep on the sundeck using the ship’s foam pads. However, when it started to rain, Zeta explained that they had to return inside, enduring the stifling conditions to protect the more vulnerable passengers, such as children and the elderly, from the harsh elements.

“Parang hindi sila nag-aalala sa kalagayan namin. Kawawa kasi yong mga bata,” he said.

(It seems like they are not concerned about our situation. It’s really tough, especially for the children.)

Caballas urged the management of 2GO to enhance their response strategies for situations affecting their vessels and passengers.

“I hope 2GO management will improve their emergency response in times like this. Kawawa [ang] mga bata and seniors here. (The children and seniors here are really suffering.) They should have emergency ventilations in the deck for good air flow. Toilets have no water now; later, it will be a problem,” he claimed.

Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) District Palawan Commander Captain Dennis Labay confirmed the grounding of St. Francis Xavier at the vicinity of Coron Bay.

He said personnel of the Coast Guard Station Northeastern Palawan have been assisting the vessel to check for holes and other issues.

“Kagabi pa ang personnel namin doon sa barko. Na check na rin nila na walang butas ang barko,” Labay said.

(Our personnel have been on the ship since last night. They have also checked and confirmed that there are no holes in the ship.)

He stated that the vessel must undergo a thorough inspection before it can continue its voyage.

Labay noted that the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) must issue a certificate of seaworthiness before St. Francis Xavier is permitted to proceed to its destination.

Meanwhile, a report from CGS Northeastern Palawan stated that while engineers worked on restoring power, the vessel’s stern ran aground in a shallow area near the pier due to low tide. By 10 p.m., power was restored, but the ship remained immobilized as the stern was still grounded.

“Members of the Marine Environmental Protection Unit (MEPERU) and CGS Northeastern Palawan boarded the vessel to inspect the engine room and bilge. They detected no signs of leakage or oil spills around the vessel. Meanwhile, divers have initiated an underwater assessment of the hull,” it stated.

Zeta said some passengers are scared to continue traveling to Puerto Princesa City and would rather disembark than risk another failure during the voyage. The ship is reportedly waiting for high tide to move from where it ran aground.

“Gawin na lang nila kung ano ang nararapat kasi kawawa ang mga pasahero. Ako, apat ang anak ko, kawawa sila dito,” he said.

(They should just do what is necessary because the passengers are suffering. I have four children, and they are really struggling in this situation.)

The PCG District Palawan said that as of 7:50 a.m. today, CGS Northeastern Palawan has helped 106 passengers safely disembark.

Palawan News is still trying to contact 2GO for a statement, but they are unreachable. The number provided is accessible, but there is a long wait for customer service response due to the high volume of calls. (with a report from Arphil Ballarta)