GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 4 Jan) – Authorities are not calling off anytime soon the ongoing search and rescue operations for the 352 fishermen from this city and nearby Sarangani Province who have remained missing following the onslaught of typhoon “Pablo” exactly a month ago.
Navy Commander Edward Ike de Sagon, acting spokesperson of the Task Force Maritime Search and Rescue SarGen (Sarangani/General Santos City), said Friday they have not considered giving up their operations despite the negative sightings of survivors and any of the unaccounted fishing vessels in the last several weeks.
“We’re still in the search and rescue mode and that will not change unless the task force decides to terminate the operations,” he said.
The official said that as a matter of procedure, they are looking at two main considerations before deciding on terminating a search and rescue operation.
“One was if the missing subjects were already found and second was if there is reasonable cause for us to believe that we will not be finding any of them,” he said.
De Sagon said the operations are presently depending on the aerial search, which involve two Islander planes of the Philippine Air Force and a P-3C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft of the United States Navy.
He said they focused on the aerial search since the scope of the operation’s search area has been made wider.
De Sagon said the aerial search operations earlier this week covered the southern portions of Balut Island in Davao del Sur towards the Indonesian boundary and the seas located around 1,000 nautical miles off Mindanao’s eastern seaboard.
But in the last two days, he said they temporarily suspended anew their operations due to the effects of the low pressure area and typhoon Auring.
Last week, the task force was also forced to suspend the search and rescue operations for several days due to the onslaught of typhoon Quinta.
The task force said 47 fishing vessels owned by nine fishing companies based in this city have remained unaccounted after being battered by huge waves and strong winds while on their way towards the mainland of Surigao del Sur last Dec. 3.
The PCG station here earlier said that most of the missing fishing vessels, which were maintaining payaos or fish aggregating devices located around 115 nautical miles off the eastern seaboard of Mindanao, were already on their way to the nearest ports when the storm caught on them. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)