5 Sarangani fishers return home after 18-day ordeal in high seas

GENERAL SANTOS CITY -- Five fishermen from Malapatan town in Sarangani province who were earlier reported missing after an accident in the seas off Davao Oriental were reunited with their families here on Thursday.

Petty Officer 2 Totoh Jailani, chief of the Philippine Coast Guard's fish port station here, said the fishermen arrived at the fish port complex aboard a fishing vessel on Thursday morning, four days after being rescued off Mati City in Davao Oriental.

He said the five fishermen were found drifting in the high seas last Jan. 15, 18 days after their fishing boat, F/B Maria Luz, was rammed by an unidentified cargo vessel.

The rescued fishermen were boat skipper Lyle Lao, 38; Tirso Dela Cruz, 44; Alfonso Vilbar, 54; Robert Gurdo, 18; and, Marjon Mirable, 23.

They were immediately brought to the city government-run Dr. Jorge P. Royeca Hospital here for checkup and treatment of wounds sustained during their ordeal.

Lao said he and six other fishermen left the coastal town of Malapatan last Dec. 23 aboard F/B Mari Luz for a fishing operation in the waters off Davao Oriental.

But on the night of Dec. 28, he said a passing cargo vessel struck and destroyed their fishing boat.

"We were already sleeping at that time and it was quite dark so we were not able to get the name of the cargo vessel," he told reporters.

Lao said they managed to stay afloat using debris from their fishing boat and drifted in the high seas.

But during their ordeal, his 18 year-old son Jeffrey and another companion Jose Pacunla, 64, died due to hunger and injuries suffered from the accident.

Jailani said their investigation showed that the ramming of the fishing boat by the cargo vessel was an accident.

"There were previous reports (of bigger vessels intentionally hitting smaller boats), but this time I think they were just bumped accidentally," he said in an interview over Brigada News TV.

He said the involved cargo vessel should have immediately rescued the fishermen and could be held liable for the accident.

But he said they could not pursue such move as the fishermen could not identify the cargo vessel.

As standard procedure, he advised fishing boats from the area with capacities of three tons and below to report or register with their municipal governments before leaving for fishing operations in the high seas.

"That will ensure that they will be located and rescued immediately in case of accidents," he added.(PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency

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