Filipino guide of kidnapped Europeans escapes

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/2 February) – The Filipino tour guide who was seized together with two European tourists off Tawi-tawi has managed to escape from the hands of their abductors by jumping off the boat and swam for his life.

Tawi-tawi police director Senior Supt. Rodelio Jocson disclosed Thursday that Ivan Sarenas, 35, of Davao City, is now in their custody.

Sarenas, along with Ewold Horn, 52, of Holland, and Lorenzo Vinciguerre, 47, from Switzerland, were seized by five gunmen around 1:50 p.m. Wednesday off the shore of Parangan, Panglima Sugala municipality.

They were aboard a motorized banca and taking photographs of rare bird species when the gunmen aboard another motorized banca arrived and seized them at gunpoint.

Jocson said Sarenas managed to jump into the water shortly before 3 p.m. Wednesday while the gunmen were transporting them towards one of the island municipalities of Tawi-tawi.

Sarenas, a member of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines, swam to safety and was recovered by fishermen of Languyan municipality, Jocson said.

He disclosed the fishermen hid Sarenas when they sensed the gunmen were tailing him.

“Though the suspects were armed, they did not shoot him so as not to alarm the public,” he said, citing there is also a Marines detachment nearby.

He said the fishermen brought Sarenas to the police station of Panglima Sugala town around 7 p.m.

Jocson said he personally went to Panglima Sugala police station to fetch Sarenas and bring him to the provincial headquarters in Bongao town, the capital of Tawi-tawi.

He said they have intensified the search for the two European tourists but did not mention a particular place so as not to jeopardize the operations.

Jocson added the search is focused “on a certain area” where the European tourists were believed to have been taken by the gunmen.

He said they have activated the Crisis Management Committee (CMC) and that there are coordinated efforts by the police, military and local government to recover the European hostages the soonest time possible.

He said they are also verifying the ownership of the motorized banca used by the gunmen in staging the abduction.

The gunmen have reportedly attempted to burn the motorized banca in a bid to conceal its identifiable markings but it was not totally razed.

Meanwhile, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte, in a statement, “strongly advise(d) that tourists check with our Department of Foreign Affairs, as well as their own embassies, regarding advisories on conditions that may affect their travel and other arrangements while visiting the country.”

She said, too, that the DFA has already notified the embassies of the kidnapped Europeans “and will keep them abreast of all relevant information and updates on the situation.” (MindaNews)