By: Emme Rose Santiagudo and Jennifer P. Rendon
TWO days after the tragic sea mishap in the Iloilo Strait, authorities are hopeful that they will still find survivors.
Commodore Allan Victor dela Vega, district commander of Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Region 6, said they are still hoping that persons listed as missing have survived.
“But it’s not conclusive na patay na ang lahat. We’re still hoping. We are in a tropical country posible pa naman may mga survivors na naanod,” dela Vega said.
He added that said it is possible that some of the survivors did not bother to report to authorities for accounting amid the search and retrieval operations.
“We are just hoping against hope na they are just washed up in different shorelines, unaccounted, already at home, left the area but did not report that they survived because look at our area it is surrounded by islands,” he said in a press conference on Monday.
On Monday morning, the PCG retrieved the remains of Romeo Baguio Sr. at Bondolan Point in Guimaras, bringing the number of fatalities to 28 instead of 31 which was initially reported by national media outlets.
With Romeo Sr. already accounted for, the number of the missing persons went down to six, most of them members of the Baguio family from Cebu.
Dela Vega added that there was confusion on the identification of bodies that were retrieved in Dumangas town, Iloilo on Sunday morning, hence the data mix up.
“There was identification of the 11 bodies and confusion on their identification. The protocol for single accounting procedure was not yet ironed out until yesterday,” he said.
DG REPORTER FINDS ‘MISSING PERSON’
As of Aug 5, 2019, Iloilo City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (CDRRMO) head Donna P. Magno confirmed that the death toll from the two separate capsizing incidents rose to 28 while 52 of the 86 passengers survived. Six others are still missing.
“We are appealing to the public to please contact us if they know the whereabouts of these people: Rommel Baguio, Danilyn Alima, Ma. Granado, Ray Gajo, and Jhaeron Mars Salanatin, and Jose Cyril Serrato,” Ms. Magno said.
But Serrato, who was declared missing, was actually interviewed by this reporter hours after the incident on Saturday.
“Gulpi lang nagdulom kag nag-agi ang ulan dala ang hangin, ‘pugada’ kag gulpi lang nagkulob (Suddenly, there was dark and rain and strong wind like a squall, then the motor boat capsized),” he told this reporter.
Magno said that they will review the data.
Two motorized boats, M/B Chi-Chi and M/B Keziah capsized due to strong winds as it was plying from Parola Wharf in Iloilo City to Jordan, Guimaras on Saturday afternoon.
Shortly, after the incident happened, another pump boat, M/B Jenny Vince plying from San Buenavista, Guimaras to Iloilo also capsized at around 3:30 p.m. due to strong winds and rain.
Based on initial investigation, Mr. Dela Vega said it was a “squall” or a strong sudden gush of wind formed in the sea that capsized the three boats. Locals call it “pugada.”
Meanwhile, the PCG national office initiated a maritime casualty investigation to look into how and why M/B Jenny Vince was allowed to travel even after the first incident happened.
He admitted that there are “grey areas” on the suspension of voyages of the motor boats.
“There is a covering protocol procedure which is both drafted and approved by the provincial government, the coastguard and the interagency body so we are guided with this protocol in allowing and suspending voyages and that protocol is ‘grey area’,” Dela Vega said.
The Office of the Civil Defense-6 also confirmed that President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to arrive in Iloilo within the week.
Meanwhile, ongoing rescue operations are conducted by the Philippine Navy, Philippine Air Force, and PCG.
Members of the Navy and PCG continue to scour the Iloilo Strait and neighboring areas to locate the missing persons.
The Air Force is also conducting aerial search and rescue operations.
Since late Saturday afternoon until yesterday, passenger pump boats were not allowed to sail the Iloilo-Guimaras route.
The CGD-WV said it would not allow sea travel of motor bancas, as long as the gale warning is still hoisted in the area.
However, it allowed Roll On-Roll Off (Ro-Ro) vessels to ferry passengers from Lapuz Port in Iloilo City to Jordan town in Guimaras.
Concerned agencies have provided transportation vehicles that shall transport passengers who travel by Ro-Ro vessels.
It has also facilitated the needs of the victims who were rescued and retrieved within the Guimaras Strait and those stranded passengers in Iloilo City.
Coordination was also done relative to the management of the casualties and missing persons to the responsible local government unit.