President Corazon Aquino on Thursday threatened to shut down the company whose passenger ship sailed into Typhoon Ruby and sank with hundreds of people aboard.
Authorities ordered the owners to explain why they should not lose their license for letting the vessel sail into a storm whose winds reached 140 mph.The latest casualty figures indicate just 197 people survived the sinking Monday of the 2,855-ton Dona Marilyn in heavy seas about 300 miles southeast of Manila.
The coast guard said an undetermined number of others reached a small island more than 100 miles west of where the ship sank. At least 33 bodies have been recovered, officials said.
Some survivors remain in shock and were refusing to be flown from the islands where they washed ashore, coast guard officials said.
The ship's manifest showed 431 passengers and a crew of 60. But coast guard officials said the head count at sailing time was 379 passengers.
Thursday, Aquino told reporters she had ordered the Department of Transportation to investigate Sulpi-cio Lines, which owned the Dona Marilyn and another passenger ship that sank 10 months ago with more than 3,000 casualties.
The Dona Paz, Dona Marilyn's sister ship, collided with an oil tanker last December off Mindoro Island. Only 28 people survived.
"If it is necessary to suspend operations of Sulpicio Lines, then I would do so," Aquino said. On Wednesday, she said investigators should determine why the Dona Marilyn sailed despite the typhoon's approach.
Philip Tuazon, administrator of the government's Maritime Industry Authority, said his organization had ordered Sulpicio "to explain why we should not suspend them."
Sulpicio President Carlos Go said he could not explain why the vessel sailed from Manila on schedule Sunday morning for Tacloban, 350 miles southeast, although the storm was approaching the eastern Philippines.