‘Tanker carried smuggled oil?’

The owner instead of retiring the ship converted it to a cargo vessel to carry sand but it ended up as an oil tanker.

Knowing the background of the sunken MT Princess Empress is essential to determine if it was smuggling bunker oil — a possibility due to the many infractions that came to light in the initial probe into its sinking.

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Juan Ponce Enrile said the probers should find out who are the people behind RDC Reield Marine Services, which was identified as the owner of the vessel.

Enrile said it is important to know the vessel’s history to find out how it was able to change its name.

“The fact that the tanker was able to sail nine times without a complete license means that powerful forces are behind it,” Enrile said. “The tanker’s owner has strong protectors.”

“Also, since there was a gale warning, how was the ship able to proceed? The probe should also consider the possibility that it is a smuggler of crude oil,” he added.

The Philippine Coast Guard said the oil tanker has a certificate of public convenience or license which was supposedly issued by the Maritime Industry Authority but the shipping sector regulator, in a recent Senate investigation, denied it issued the license that was seen by the PCG.

“You can trace the origin of the vessel 50 years back and determine who built it and for what purpose,” the veteran lawyer added.

“The investigation should be systematic. The findings will bear out the truth.”

Enrile suggested the investigation could likewise be used to the advantage of those who want to divert the issue.

“Just ask questions, it’s that simple. The vessel has requirements for registration (that can be looked into),” he said.

Enrile, in his weekly program “Bayan ni Juan,” said there are government cases where collusion happened to defraud the public coffers.

“The other day, we, together with President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., found a public corporation that had existed for the past 30 years without contributing any income or any kind of benefit to the government,” he revealed.

He added: “The officials and staff just kept on drawing salaries from the corporation but it has not provided any gains.”

The state firm’s board did not even follow rules in the naming of directors, he revealed.

“So President Marcos asked the Cabinet to investigate it and the directors running the corporation,” he said. “There are many Judases in the National Treasury.”

50-year old vessel

Initial investigation following the tanker mishap showed that it was not brand new.

Department of Justice findings showed the 50-year-old vessel was used to be known as the MT Dorothy 1. It was originally a tanker that carried liquefied petroleum gas.

The owner, instead of retiring the ship, converted it into a cargo vessel to carry sand but it ended up as an oil tanker.

What is very suspicious about the circumstances behind the continued sailing of the ship is the conflict between the PCG and Marina regarding its license.

“Who authorized the refurbished tanker to carry bunker oil? And where was the destination of the cargo?” Enrile asked. “Who was the importer (or charterer)? Who engaged the services of the tanker?”

An investigation also pointed to SL Harbor Bulk Terminal Corporation, a subsidiary of San Miguel Corporation, as the charterer of the tanker and it was thus the operator of the ship when it met its end.

“The investigation can’t be wishy-washy,” Enrile said.

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