The search for 14 people missing after their fishing boat and a cargo ship collided off the Philippines has turned into a retrieval operation with little hope of finding them alive, the coast guard said Friday.
The vessels crashed last Saturday night in waters southwest of Manila, capsizing the Philippine fishing boat Liberty 5 off the coast of Occidental Mindoro province.
The crew of the Hong Kong-registered cargo ship MV Vienna Wood has been detained as investigators prepare to lay criminal charges over the incident.
"There is a very slim chance that we may still find them alive," Philippine coast guard chief George Ursabia told a local radio station, as the search shifts to retrieving the bodies of the missing men in the next two days.
"Eventually we will terminate our efforts on this."
Philippine authorities have deployed aircraft and ships in the hunt for the 12 missing Filipino crew members and their two passengers.
The coast guard initially said strong ocean currents may have caused the collision, but investigators are looking at whether the crew of the cargo ship was also at fault.
The coast guard is "preparing the evidence and finalising the criminal charges to be filed against MV Vienna Wood", said spokesman Commodore Armando Balilo.
China had offered to help in the search.
The Philippines has a poor shipping safety record, with scores dying in mishaps at sea each year, usually aboard wooden-hulled outriggers that move people from one small island to another.