THE GOVERNMENT has extended financial assistance worth more than P600,000 to the passengers of an inter-island ferry that was razed by fire while sailing in southern Philippines, according to Malacañang.  

Both national and local government units have extended the necessary assistance to the sea fire victims,the Presidential Communications Office said in a statement on Sunday, citing a report by the Defense officer-in-charge Carlito G. Galvez, Jr.  

The Palace said the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the provincial government of Basilan have distributed financial assistance worth P640,000 and more than P71,000 worth of food and non-food items.”  

The vessel was traveling from the southern port city of Zamboanga to the island province of Sulu when it caught fire about midway and burned just off Basilan province.   

The fire began in the ferrys air-conditioned cabins on Wednesday night, killing at least 28 people including three children.   

During the retrieval operations, it came out that out of the 18 bodies visually identified, only 17 actual cadavers were recovered from the scene,Mr. Galvez said. “Subsequently, the said bodies were brought to Villa Arcega Funeral Homes in Zamboanga City for proper identification and disposition.”  

He said two multi-purpose assault crafts of the Philippine Navy, which had served as the incidents first responders,were still in the area conducting search and rescue operations.  

Furthermore, the OCD (Office of Civil Defense), in collaboration with the local agencies, continues the accounting of the victims (casualties and survivors) in order to process the necessary assistance and insurance claims,Mr. Galvez said.  

Our AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and PCG (Philippine Coast Guard) troops are also still in the area providing all the needed support and assistance to the victimsfamilies and the community, he said. Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza