But bad weather, particularly during the typhoon season, as well as poor maintenance, overloading of vessels and lax enforcement of regulations, has often brought disaster to sea travellers.

Here is a list of major ferry disasters in the Philippines over the past two decades:

September 6, 2009: Five people are confirmed killed and more than 60 are left missing after the Superferry 9 tilts sharply and then sinks near Zamboanga.

May, 2009: Wooden-hulled MV Commander 6 cracks open and sinks just south of Manila, leaving 12 dead.

December, 2008: Ferry Maejan capsizes off the northern Philippines, leaving 30 dead.

November, 2008: Don Dexter Kathleen, small wooden-hulled ferry, capsizes in freak winds off the central island of Masbate, leaving 42 dead.

June, 2008: The Princess of the Stars ferry, owned by Sulpicio Lines, capsizes at the height of a typhoon. Of the 850 on  board, only 57 survive.

February, 2004: A fire breaks out on Superferry 14 near Manila Bay, leaving 116 dead. Islamist groups later claim they planted a bomb aboard the vessel.

April, 2000: The overloaded ML Anahanda, which was supposed to be operating only as a cargo vessel, sinks off the island of Jolo. About 100 of the estimated 150 people on board die.

September, 1998: The ferry MV Princess of the Orient, sister ship of the Princess of the Stars and also owned by Sulpicio Lines, sinks off Batangas City. About 150 die.

December, 1994: A Singaporean freighter hits the ferry Cebu City in Manila Bay, leaving about 140 dead.

October 1988: The Dona Marilyn ferry, owned by Sulpicio Lines, sinks off the central island of Leyte, leaving more than 250 dead.

December, 1987: The Dona Paz, sister ship of Dona Marilyn, collides with an oil tanker off Mindoro island, leaving more than  4,000 dead in the world's worst peacetime shipping disaster.