GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/ 7 December) – At least 175 fishermen from this city and the neighboring areas have remained missing as a number of fishing boats owned by various local tuna fishing companies were still unaccounted following the onslaught three days ago of Typhoon Pablo
in the seas off the eastern coast of Mindanao, an official said.
Commander Nelbert Aniversario, chief of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) station here, said Friday morning the figure was based on reports submitted by two local fishing companies.
But he noted that they were still waiting for the reports from other fishing companies that had lost contact with their fishing boats and crewmen following the weather disturbance.
“Most of the unaccounted fishing vessels were already heading towards the nearest ports when the storm caught on them,” Aniversario said.
The official said the PCG had issued warnings to the fishing companies here several days ahead of Pablo, which made landfall over Baganga, Davao Oriental at 4:45 a.m. last Tuesday.
Citing accounts from representatives of Salazar and Rugel fishing companies, he said the missing fishing fleets were located around 115 nautical miles off the Davao Oriental seaboard when the public storm warning signal came.
The fishing fleets, which were composed of carriers, light boats and catchers, were then working on their “payaos” or fish aggregating devices in the area, he said.
Most of the affected tuna fishing companies here reportedly lost contact with their fleets at around 4 p.m. last Monday (December 3), said Chief Petty Officer Emmanuel Imbuido.
“We tracked down their given location at the vicinity of Mati area in Davao Oriental and Bislig in Surigao del Sur,” he said.
Aniversario said the PCG had dispatched two search and rescue vessels to locate the missing fishing fleets.
He said several other fishing companies from the area have also sent teams to assist in the search and rescue operations.
The PCG had established a command post under the supervision of Commodore George Ursabia at the port of Mati City to oversee the search and rescue operations.
“We’ve been communicating with our counterparts there every four hours
to get some updates and other necessary information,” Aniversario said.
On Thursday evening, around 500 relatives of the missing fishing crewmembers flocked to the Makar Wharf here over reports that a catcher vessel supposedly carrying survivors and bodies of dead fishermen was arriving at the port.
But Aniversario described it as a “false alarm,” citing that they have not been notified of an arriving catcher vessel from Mati, Davao Oriental.
A Roll-On/Roll-Off vessel from Cebu docked at the Makar Wharf on Thursday night but it was carrying container vans, he said.
Mayor Darlene Antonino, who visited the families of the missing fishermen that rushed to the port, said the local government has been coordinating with various government agencies to immediately locate the missing fishermen.
She assured them that the city will exhaust all necessary efforts to properly account all the missing fishing fleets and their crewmembers.
Marfenio Tan, former president of the Socsksargen Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries Inc. (SFFAAI), earlier said that around 300 fishermen were feared to be missing due to Typhoon Pablo.
The Mindanao Development Authority listed 28 fishing vessels with 117 crewmembers as still unaccounted due to the super typhoon. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)