‘Pablo’ deaths reach 647

The Philippine Star

NEW BATAAN, Philippines – The number of missing persons from super typhoon “Pablo” has ballooned to nearly 900 after families and fishing companies reported losing contact with more than 300 fishermen when the cyclone unleashed its fury in Mindanao, officials said yesterday.

As of yesterday, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said the death toll from Pablo has hit 647, mostly from flashfloods that wiped out farming and mining communities in Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental.

“The fishermen from General Santos City and nearby Sarangani province left a few days before Pablo hit the main southern island of Mindanao last Tuesday,” said Benito Ramos, head of NDRRMC.

Ramos said the fishermen were headed for the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, and the Pacific Ocean.

They have been missing since Dec. 4, after Pablo made landfall in Baganga, Davao Oriental.

Ramos said the Philippine Coast Guard, Navy and some fishing vessels were searching for them, hoping they had taken shelter in the nearby islands.

Malacañang said authorities are exerting all efforts to rescue the fishermen who were reported to have gone missing in the waters off Mati in Davao Oriental, even as five bodies had been recovered.

A report submitted to the Palace by Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said five bodies have been recovered, 29 have been rescued, and 313 remain unaccounted for.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said two Coast Guard vessels have been deployed to conduct search, rescue and relief operations for the fishermen.

The maritime agencies have also expanded their search up to the waters of Indonesia, hoping to find them alive and well.

PCG-District Southeastern Mindanao (PCG-DSEM) commander Commodore George Ursabia said the Navy, which is their counterpart in the search, has already coordinated with Indonesian officials in a bid to find the missing Filipino fishermen.

“It is possible that they have drifted to the Indonesian waters. The Philippine Navy has already coordinated with the Indonesian authorities,” Ursabia said.

The PCG has also dispatched Monitoring, Control and Surveillance vessels, which are PCG-manned ships owned by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), and have looked for the fishermen as far as 120 nautical miles away from Mati.

They have also issued a Notice to Mariners (Notam) to inform ships passing in the area to be on the lookout for the missing fishermen.

The fishermen were said to be on board 45 fishing vessels when they left General Santos City sometime last Nov. 20.

Ursabia said this kind of fishing expedition oftentimes last three to four months.

Most of the fishermen were from General Santos City, while some were from Sarangani, Davao Oriental and Surigao del Sur.

However, a local executive yesterday described as an “anomaly” the report about the missing fishermen.

Citing an NDRRMC report, Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said 313 of the 360 identified missing persons were reported by fishing and shipping companies.

“This is a most glaring existential anomaly,” Salceda said in a statement sent to journalists through email.            

He said either the Coast Guard had failed to enforce a no-sailing policy or some firms had deliberately put their personnel in danger by disregarding news about the typhoon.

“With this regulatory regime, corporate behavior and predisposition of our elite, one should not wonder why this archipelagic nation can never achieve zero casualty,” he said.

“I want to faint since it is fast becoming a fashionable statement,” he added, referring to “zero casualty” even as urged the government to reconcile some differences between reports by the NDRRMC and Proclamation 522, which declared a state of national calamity due to Pablo.

He said the province of Davao del Sur was not mentioned in the proclamation, which was issued by Malacañang last Dec. 7.

Salceda said Davao del Sur was “conspicuously missing” in the proclamation even if 563,428 families or 2,812,181 residents were affected by the typhoon.

“In short, we might be questioned (on the discrepancy) so we better reconcile this difference of 2,812,181 lives,” he said.

The areas mentioned by Proclamation 522 as sustaining grave damage were Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental and Davao del Norte in the Davao region; Surigao del Sur in Caraga region; Lanao del Norte, Misamis Oriental and Cagayan de Oro City in Northern Mindanao; Siquijor in Central Visayas and Palawan in Mimaropa region.

AP, Non Alquitran, Evelyn Macairan, Aurea Calica, Alexis Romero, Jaime Laude










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