PCG ends search for 14 Pinoys in sea mishap
PCG Commandant Vice Admiral George Ursabia Jr. said they shifted operations to search and retrieval as they presumed that none of the missing – 12 fishermen and two passengers – survived the tragedy.
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PCG ends search for 14 Pinoys in sea mishap
Robertzon Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - July 4, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines  — The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) terminated yesterday search and rescue efforts for 14 Filipinos that remain missing after their boat collided with the Hong Kong-registered MV Vienna Wood last weekend.

PCG Commandant Vice Admiral George Ursabia Jr. said they shifted operations to search and retrieval as they presumed that none of the missing – 12 fishermen and two passengers – survived the tragedy.

“After three days, if you are unable to find them, then they are presumed dead. But of course, we really don’t know. By miracle, it is possible that they are still alive,” Ursabia said in English and Filipino.

He added that while the PCG remains hopeful that those on board F/B Liberty 5 have survived the tragedy, the chance of finding them alive is very slim.

The PCG will evaluate tomorrow whether to continue or stop the retrieval operation before deciding to terminate operations. It launched the search and rescue a few hours after receiving a distress call through email from the crew of the MV Vienna Wood, which failed to rescue the 14 Filipinos.

Rescue teams from other law enforcement agencies and various disaster risk reduction teams have also helped the PCG in both sea and air operations.

Ursabia said they are also gathering evidence and getting the accounts of some witnesses, which might be useful when filing charges against the Vienna Wood crew who failed to do their duty in saving the lives of those aboard the Liberty 5.

PCG lawyers, he added, are in Mindoro and are closely coordinating with other fishermen who attempted to rescue the missing Filipinos.

Based on initial investigation, the sea tragedy was not a case of hit-and-run as the vessel’s crew did not leave the scene when the incident happened but only refused to help the Filipinos, Ursabia revealed.

The vessel reportedly opted to let other fishermen do the rescue and went to a safe distance to avoid ramming further the ill-fated Liberty 5 and the other fishing boats. At least seven boats reportedly responded to the call for help.

Ursabia said the MV Vienna Wood has two functioning radars that detected the fishing vessels, although it was too late when they maneuvered to avoid a collision.

“The ships, unlike the vehicles on the road, are more complicated to maneuver because of the glide,” he added.

He gave assurance that the PCG would extend financial assistance to the families of the victims.

Meanwhile, Sen. Grace Poe asked authorities yesterday to augment and mobilize resources to scour the waters for the 14 missing Filipinos.

She said the PCG should also seek help for sea and air assets of neighboring countries as the search has become a race against the clock.

“Every day counts. We should not let down the families of the 14 Filipinos awaiting the safe return of their loved ones. It’s been six days (since the incident) and their loved ones have been waiting for a long time. The sea may be wide and deep but they must search for them and rescue them… In this situation, we need a true all-hands-on-deck effort. We must keep searching,” the lawmaker stressed.

Poe added that an exhaustive and wide search would increase the chance of finding the missing fishers.

She earlier filed and sponsored Senate Bill 1077 or the proposed National Transportation Safety Board that will focus on investigating air, highway, railroad, pipeline and maritime accidents such as this.

The bill, approved on third and final reading at the Senate, said transportation accidents carry hefty price tags and cost lives and should not be left in the archives without giving justice to the victims. Paolo Romero

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