By ARGYLL CYRUS GEDUCOS
A Panamanian-registered cargo ship involved in attempted arms smuggling seven years ago sank in Manila Bay yesterday in full view of the morning crowd along the Baywalk in Roxas Boulevard in Manila.
Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) spokesperson Commander Armand Balilo said that three-fourths of M/V Captain Ufuk is submerged in water as of 10:30 a.m.
Balilo said seven crew members tasked with maintaining the 49-year-old ship abandoned ship at 9:40 p.m. Saturday after failing to stop water from entering.
“Tinry pa nila na tanggalin ‘yung tubig pero ‘di na nila kinaya,” he said.
Balilo quoted the crew as saying that water could have entered through busted pipelines, a claim subject for confirmation.
“Ang report ng crew, baka may nasira daw na pipes tapos doon pumasok ‘yung tubig,” he said.
The PCG said initial inspection showed that no oil has leaked from the vessel.
Balilo said they are now coordinating with the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to remove the ship as soon as possible.
“Before hindi naman siya delikado kasi may tao naman sa vessel, ngayon nalang siya naging delikado para sa mga naglalayag dahil sa kalagayan niya,” he said.
The ship was moored outside the breakwater in 2012, three years after it was seized for carrying cache of assault rifles reportedly worth P100 million.
Bruce Jones, the British captain, was not aboard when the ship was seized by the PCG. He left the ship to attend to his pregnant Filipina wife.
Arrested were Jones’ replacement, South African John Lawrence, and 13 crewmen from Georgia.
Interviewed while hiding, Jones sought government protection, saying that the syndicate behind the arm smuggling is threatening him and his family.
Unfortunately, Jones was shot dead two years later by two unidentified suspects aboard a motorcycle in Angeles City. His wife was wounded during the attack.
In an exclusive interview with Manila Bulletin reporter Mar Supnad in 2009, Jones denied involvement in arm smuggling and terrorism.
“I am not a terrorist and not capable of doing that,” he said.
Jones said he was a victim of the incident, adding that he had documents to support that the guns were legally acquired from P.T. Pindad with address at JI. Jend. Gatot Subroto, 517 Bandung, Indonesia.
“In fact, when they loaded the 20 wooden crates of guns into my ship, these were even supervised and guarded by around 50 policemen or soldiers from Indonesia. So I presumed it was all legally acquired,” he said.
He said he was instructed by his employer to deliver the guns to La Plata Trading, Inc. with office address at 14th floor, BDO Building, Paseo de Roxas, Makati City and was told that the cargo had been cleared by the Philippine National Police (PNP).
According to Jones, a total of 20 wooden crates full of guns were loaded into the ship from Indonesia. He said 19 of the boxes contained assault rifles and only one box contained 9mm pistols.