CEBU CITY, Philippines?Sulpicio Lines Inc. (SLI) has sold two of its passenger vessels to another Cebu-based shipping company.
Joy Roble, vice president for operations of Roble Shipping Lines, confirmed Tuesday afternoon that their company bought passenger vessels MV Cebu Princess and MV Cagayan Princess from the SLI for P33 million on Wednesday last week.
However, the SLI did not issue an official statement about the sale.
Even the crewmembers of the two vessels were kept in the dark and learned about the sale only when the vessels were turned over to Roble Shipping on Saturday and Sunday.
"We were not informed. We only knew about it when the officials of Roble Shipping Lines went inside the vessel last Saturday," said Cagayan Princess linen man Genaro Tasan, president of the rank and file employees union of SLI.
Tasan also said that they learned that a third vessel, Palawan Princess, was also sold to another buyer but he could not remember the buyer?s name.
SLI officials refused to be interviewed. Two top officials of the company, Ryan and Grant Go, instead said their lawyers would be the ones to answer any question.
However, attempts to contact Manila-based lawyers Arthur Lim and Ma. Victoria Florido through their office failed as the two were reportedly in a conference since 3 p.m. Tuesday until late afternoon.
Cebu-based lawyer Manuel Espina, also a legal counsel for SLI, met with the affected crewmembers of the vessels at the local office of the Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU TUCP) in Cebu late Tuesday afternoon. Cagayan Princess captain Gregorio Mabitad and Cebu Princess captain Exequel Dagondon also attended the meeting.
But earlier Tuesday afternoon, Espina said he did not know anything about the sale.
Tasan said 75 crewmembers would be affected by the sale of the three vessels, adding that they received their last salary last October 10.
The management promised that they could be accommodated in the remaining vessels of the company but could not say when they would be absorbed, Tasan said.
During the meeting, some crewmembers asked for separation fee while some asked for one month-salary assistance, which they could use until they could be absorbed in the other SLI vessels.
However, Espina did not make any commitment.
He also could not confirm if Palawan Princess was sold.
Roble said they started negotiating with SLI president Carlos Go for the purchase of the two vessels last September 17.
He explained that they initiated the negotiations when they saw the two vessels kept at the SLI docking area, which was beside theirs.
When he inquired if the company had plans to sell the vessels, he was told to approach the top management.
Roble said a day after he approached Go, they already had a gentleman's agreement on September 18.
After the documentations were finished, Roble paid SLI on October 8.
Roble said he did not know if the other vessels would also be sold because he was only interested in buying the roll on-roll off vessels.
He said Roble Shipping would come up with the new routes and new names of the two vessels in two weeks time.
Roble said they might deploy these two vessels to Leyte, either Hilongos or Baybay, and Samar, with Cebu as the port of origin.
Roble Shipping Line owns several vessels, which carry the name Star, like MV Ormoc Star.
Roble added the displaced crewmen could apply with them and if they were qualified, they would be accepted.
However, he said the company would be hiring new crewmembers for the vessels.
Sulpicio Lines? passenger shipping has been suspended by government after its flagship, MV Princess of the Stars, sank off Romblon last June 21 at the height of typhoon Frank, bringing down with it over 800 passengers and crew. Only 32 survived, about 200 bodies have been recovered while the rest are officially missing and believed trapped in the sunken ferry off Sibuyan Island, Romblon.
The Board of Marine Inquiry has recommended that Sulpicio be stripped of its license for its failure to adjust its route according to the storm signals of the country?s weather bureau and for other technical lapses that contributed to the ship sinking and the loss of lives.
The sea tragedy was the fourth for Sulpicio since the sinking of MV Dońa Paz in 1987, which drowned 4,000 people.