By Vittorio Hernandez

Iloilo City, Iloilo, Philippines

A Philippine passenger and cargo vessel, MV Asia Malaysia, sank Sunday morning off the coast of Iloilo, a province in the southern Philippines which is part of the Visayas area. All of its nearly 200 passengers and crew were safely rescued.

The ship was on its way to Iloilo from Cebu on an overnight trip when it began to tilt to the starboard side about dawn Sunday. Philippine Coast Guard Chief Admiral Ramon Liwag said the cause of the maritime accident was not yet clear.

The ship captain sent a distress call to the PCG and ordered everyone on board to abandon the vessel at 6 a.m. The vessel sank at 9 a.m., just six kilometers off its destination.

The PCG said all of the ship's 134 passengers and 44 crew members were rescued by passing fishermen and the vessels MV Filipinas Cebu and MT Phil Visayas. The PCG dispatched a helicopter to check for other survivors and a possible oil slick.

Trans-Asia Shipping Line, which operated the vessel, said the ship was sailing normally until it encountered large waves and strong winds at dawn. However, the PCG on Monday questioned Trans-Asia's claim. The agency said their initial findings indicated there was no inclement weather or big waves at the time of the accident.

However, the PCG cleared the ship operator of overloading because the vessel had a capacity of more than 500 passengers.



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