Passengers, crewmen of missing boat kidnapped by pirates
- Nestor Etolle () - April 11, 2006 - 12:00am
A Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) official confirmed yesterday reports that the eight passengers and three crewmen of a pumpboat which went missing while en route to Palawan last March 31 were kidnapped by pirates.

In a radio message to the PCG headquarters in Manila, Southern Tagalog Coast Guard district commander Commodore Efren Sabas reported that the alleged kidnappers have contacted officials of M-4 Construction Co. over the abduction of their employees.

Sabas, however, failed to state the demand of the kidnappers, who were reportedly presently holed up in Tara Island off Palawan.

The 11 passengers left the port of San Jose, Occidental Mindoro at about 4:34 a.m. last March 31 on board the MB Fatima. The pumpboat was supposed to reach Coron, Palawan the following day.

The PCG has launched a search and rescue operations but so far failed to find the missing pumpboat. The Coast Guard said no sign of floating debris or body was sighted in the voyage route of the pumpboat to indicate that it had sunk.

There were suspicions that the pumpboat was seajacked by pirates and this was confirmed only yesterday.

Capt. Gilbert Rueras, Coast Guard operations chief, said the agency will be sending a special rescue unit to assist the military in its manhunt operations.

"Since this is a case of seajacking, the Coast Guard is mandated to assist in the search and rescue operation. We can provide the aircraft to scour the vicinity of the reported abduction and a multi-skilled group of personnel to confront the abductors," said Rueras.

According to Commodore Wilfredo Tamayo, the Coast Guard is ready to take on the rescue job.

The eight passengers were identified as Arvin Dalisay, Ruelito Javier, Rovel Magtibag, Russel Claveria, Ben Velasquez, Manolito Velasquez, Reynaldo Montery and Renato Gimar.

The identities of the three crewmen were not made available as of yesterday.

Combined Navy and Air Force rescue teams have been fielded to assist in the ongoing search and recovery operations for the eight Batangas-based construction maintenance workers who disappeared on high seas while en route to Coron, Palawan.

Aside from Navy and the Air Force, the PCG and the Philippine National Police (PNP) have also joined the search and recovery operations for the missing construction workers. With Jaime Laude

A PHILIPPINE COAST GUARD ARVIN DALISAY BEN VELASQUEZ COAST GUARD COMBINED NAVY AND AIR FORCE COMMODORE EFREN SABAS COMMODORE WILFREDO TAMAYO CONSTRUCTION CO CORON GILBERT RUERAS PALAWAN
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