Boracay group to temporarily suspend dragon boat races

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By: Jennifer P. Rendon

THE Boracay Inter-Agency Rehabilitation Management Group (BIARMG) will temporarily suspend all dragon boat races following the Sept. 25 sea mishap that killed seven persons.

Natividad Bernardino, the agency’s general manager, said she would verbally instruct dragon boat racers to cease from doing races, training, and practices, while they are reviewing the safety protocols for the conduct of such activities.

The Boracay Inter-Agency Rehabilitation Management Group is an agency under the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF).

“Dragon boat races won’t be allowed until such time they could present proof that they have the necessary safety equipment and devices,” she said.

In the case of the Boracay Dragon Force team, the group that figured in the tragedy, there were reports that they lacked floatation devices like life vests.

A personal floatation vest will not prevent drowning in water since it is not a life jacket or a life saving device. A swimming aid on the other hand, is designed to assist with the search and retrieval in the event of an accident.

“But that we have to still find out. That would form part of our discussion,” Bernardino said.

Bernardino said she will meet with member agencies of the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office to review safety protocols for activities like dragon boat races.

They will also review safety protocols for dragon boat races before participants are allowed to continue with practices and trainings.

But other sea sports activities will still be allowed although their operation will be included in the review.

The group will also probe other issues surrounding the incident including allegations that it took several minutes for members of the Philippine Coast Guard to answer the call for help and respond.

“But more than blaming, the review would find what we could do strengthen our emergency response efforts,” Bernardino said.

The team will also procure additional equipment for the MDRRMO and PCG if the agencies ask.



Immediately after the incident, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said emergency response programs will be strengthened in Boracay Island to prevent another tragedy like the deaths of the Boracay Dragon Force Team members.

“The BIATF is saddened by this tragedy and sympathizes with the families of all casualties. The task force will work with the local government units and other authorities to extend assistance to all affected by this unfortunate incident,” Cimatu said in a statement.

Cimatu assured that the BIATF Field Office “will work on a comprehensive emergency response program and shall recommend it to the principals of the task force.”

The BIATF is chaired by Cimatu and co-chaired by Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año and Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat.

“The program will consider the provision of necessary protocols, logistics, and resources for an effective emergency rescue and response in the island,” Cimatu said.

He noted that the local municipality of Malay in Aklan also responded to the aid of the victims and their families by activating their Incident Command System, with the departments and agencies providing services such as cadaver management from the Municipal Health Office; family assistance and stress debriefing from the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office and Red Cross; and security from the Philippine Coast Guard and the maritime arm of the Philippine National Police.

A boat carrying 20 paddlers and one steersman of the Boracay Dragon Team overturned while rowing from the Bulabog Beach to the White Beach of Boracay Island Wednesday morning.

Seven paddlers were declared dead on arrival (DOA) in different hospitals: Mark Vincent Navarete, Omar Arcob, Maricel Tan, Yohan Tan, Richel Montoya, Antonette Supranes, and John Vincent Natividad.

The survivors were Mark Baccay, Jaylord Violanda, Robel Licerio, Marc Sabado, Oathleen Sabado, Kenneth Bandalan, Julia Kurbaniizova, Maggie Xie, Xhen Autona, Lani Ordas, Janice Lumbo, Jao Buenaventura, Von Navarossa, and Edwin Paradas.

According to reports, the Boracay Dragon Boat Team was training for weeks at Bulabog Beach in Barangay Balabag but transferred to the White Beach because the winds changed from southwest monsoon (habagat) to northeast monsoon (amihan) three days ago.

While paddling, the team encountered a sudden violent gust of wind before they reached the third bay of Tulubhan Beach in Sitio Tulubhan in Manocmanoc, Boracay Island. Waves started to swell and then hit the boat, filling it with water to eventually capsizing it.

The group has been practicing for weeks in the famous tourist destination for an international competition to be held in Taiwan late this year.