Court bars Chinese crew in Mindoro sea collision from leaving PH

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 15) — A local court has issued a hold departure order against the crew of a Hong Kong-registered bulk carrier involved in the sinking of a boat in Occidental Mindoro in late June that left 14 Filipino fishermen and passengers missing.

The Philippine Coast Guard said in a statement on Wednesday that Branch 44 of the Regional Trial Court in Mamburao, Occidental Mindoro granted their motion for a hold departure order so the Chinese crew can face criminal charges in the Philippines.

A hold departure order directs the Bureau of Immigration to prevent an individual from leaving the country.

The PCG last week filed a case of reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide and damage to property against the Chinese owners and crew of MV Vienna Wood over the collision that happened early morning of June 28. Named in the complaint before the Occidental Mindoro provincial prosecutor's office were Captain Zhang Weiwei from Shandong, China; Shin Bin from Henan, China; Yi Lei from Jillen, China; and Yang Xileng from Shandong, China.

Authorities ended the search and retrieval operations after more than a week.

"Sa ngayon, wala pa rin tayong nakikita na katawan. But we cannot cannot declare them dead," Coast Guard Commandant Vice Admiral George Ursabia, Jr. told the families on July 8. "There is still a possibility na buhay pa sila."

[Translation: We still haven't found their bodies but we cannot declare them dead yet. There is still a possibility that they're alive.]

The PCG station in Occidental Mindoro will continue to be on the lookout for any possible lead and information to locate the fishermen. Personnel will also patrol adjacent coastal municipalities, the Coast Guard said.

Amid speculations the Chinese government could request to free the Chinese crew, Ursabia clarified that Beijing is not meddling in the case.

The PCG earlier said based on the initial investigation, the collision at around 10:20 p.m. on June 27 was not deliberate. But the foreign crew members were believed to have committed negligence, sending a distress call via email three hours after the incident.

READ: Hong Kong vessel did not abandon Filipino fishermen, but several lapses found – PCG

CNN Philippines' David Santos contributed to this report.