Image: Mass for ferry victims
Pat Roque  /  AP
Aubrey Jill Geli holds a black lantern symbolizing a bleak Christmas for relatives of the victims of Thursday's ferry disaster during a mass Saturday in Manila. Coast guard officials said on Sunday that a second ferry sinking killed at least three people.
updated 12/26/2009 9:49:17 PM ET 2009-12-27T02:49:17

A passenger ferry sank in the northern Philippines, leaving three dead and 22 missing in a second sea disaster in three days, the coast guard said Sunday.

Search-and-rescue teams rescued 63 passengers and crew of the MV Baleno-9 and were scouring the seas for others still unaccounted for, the coast guard said in a statement.

It quoted survivors as saying the vessel took in water coming from the bow ramp and listed before going under while traversing the area of Verde Island passage off Batangas province south of Manila.

On Christmas Eve, a wooden-hulled ferry with 73 people on board collided with a fishing vessel near the mouth of Manila Bay, with 24 people still missing.

Three bodies and 46 survivors have been recovered from that accident, which prompted President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to suspend operations of the companies involved in the collision.

Officials suspected Thursday's accident was likely caused by human error, but a formal inquiry was expected to begin Monday.

Sea accidents are common in the archipelago because of tropical storms, badly maintained boats and weak enforcement of safety regulations.

Last year, a ferry overturned after sailing toward a powerful typhoon in the central Philippines, killing more than 800 people on board.

In December 1987, the ferry Dona Paz sank after colliding with a fuel tanker, killing more than 4,341 people in the world's worst peacetime maritime disaster.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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