Gov't launches rescue ops for 4 Sarangani fishers

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/9 Sept) – Government rescuers launched a massive search for at least four fishermen from Sarangani Province who reportedly went missing and were now feared dead after their fishing boat was attacked by suspected sea pirates off Sarangani Bay earlier this week.

Senior Insp. Alex Orcajada, commander of the Police Regional Office 12 Public Safety Battalion’s 3rd Company, said Thursday they confirmed the disappearance of the four fishermen following the recovery of the empty fishing boat that were previously manned by the victims.

He identified the missing victims as fishing boat operator Norberto Pareja and crew members Federico Belarmino, Rogelio Galon and Joseph Pelaez, all residents of Kiamba town in Sarangani.

Citing reports from several witnesses, Orcajada said the victims were fishing within the seas off the coasts of Sultan Kudarat province when they were attacked by a group of armed sea pirates.

He said the suspects, who were reportedly aboard a motorized banca, initially approached and attempted to board the fishing boat but the fishermen resisted them.

“The pirates reportedly asked the victims to hand them a rope so they could tag the boat but they resisted and were immediately shot,” Orcajada said.

He said the four fishermen were reportedly last seen falling into the water following the shooting.

Orcajada said local fishermen later recovered the fishing boat already empty and with several blood stains on it.

The Philippine Coastguard here has already joined the ongoing search for the missing fishermen and launched patrols along the portion of the seas where the incident happened.

Kiamba Mayor Raul Martinez said he initially directed operators based in his town to help in the ongoing search for the victims.

The mayor said he is scheduled to meet with officials of the town’s coastal villages for the reactivation of sea patrol teams within their areas.

A number of fishermen had been killed and eventually lost their boats during the last several years to attacks by sea pirates along the Sarangani Bay who were known for their mode of attack called “ambak pare,” which literally means “jump, buddy.”

The pirates, who were usually aboard motorized bancas, would usually approach a fishing boat, board them and direct the fishermen to jump into the sea. In most instances, the pirates would shoot the fishermen when they resist. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)