3 GenSan fishermen rescued off Surigao Sur

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews / 6 Dec) – Three fishermen from General Santos City were rescued from the waters of Lianga Bay in Surigao del Sur, 70 nautical miles from the shorelines, on Wednesday morning while 18 more fishing boats and 117 crew are still missing, the Philippine Coast Guard said.

Rescued by M/V Cala Portese, a refrigerated ship bearing a Netherlands Antilles flag, were Leopoldo S. Arias, 42, his brother Rolly, 29, and Joemar N. Quiritan, 27, all residents of Diamond Valley, Tambler, General Santos City, according to Lt. Commander Joel M. Simoag, PCG Surigao commanding officer.

Leopoldo Arias is the boat captain of light boat Mark Anthony 35 with mother boat Lorna 9, which is owned by RLG Fishing from General Santos. Two more mother boats – Lorna 7 and Lorna 8 – from the same company are also missing with 18 fishing crew onboard, Arias said.

The three rescued fishermen, aboard Mark Anthony 35, were tagging along Lorna 9 fishing in the seas off Siargao Island when they decided to take shelter towards Mati in Davao Oriental on Sunday upon learning that typhoon Pablo was coming.

Their light boat capsized around 1 a.m. Monday.

Arias said Lorna 9 was spared from the battery of strong and giant waves and is reportedly in Mati now.

Simoag said they received a call from the captain of Cala Portese regarding the fishermen at 1:12 p.m. Wednesday. He said they coordinated with the Philippine Navy to retrieve the fishermen.

Acting Commanding Officer Lt. Jayson F. Cimatu, of the Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao Command, said they were taking shelter at Nasipit port in Agusan del Norte when they received the call. They were able to meet up with the foreign vessel at 9:35 p.m. Wednesday at Tugas Point, Hinagkaban Bay between the boundary of Surigao del Sur and Claver in Surigao del Norte and retrieved the fishermen.

“They were in good condition but looked weak and tired,” Cimatu said. The fishermen were given first aid treatment and are now confined at the trauma room of the Caraga Regional Hospital for minor injuries.

Quiritan suffered bruises in the stomach while the siblings had light bruises on their elbows and knees.

Arias said they already called the owner of the fishing company for help since they want to go back to General Santos by Friday.

Arias said they were scared but left everything to God as they dealt with giant waves as high as 20 to 30 feet for three nights and three days. “It was only early morning yesterday (Wednesday) when the waves subsided,” he said.

Somehow, they had some preparations before the boat sank. Arias told his men to make an improvised flotation device by tying together Styrofoam. They survived mainly on water from a big blue container that can hold 20 liters. At the time they were rescued, only four liters remained in the container.

M/V Cala Portese, which transports fruits for the Davao-based Stanfilco for export, was on its way to Tokyo loaded with banana when the crew chanced upon the fisherman in the water.

“We were actually on our way to Japan when the vessel had to turn back after receiving the call that the Navy will fetch us,” Rolly said. The younger Arias said excitedly that they could have gone to Japan, but Leopoldo was quick to say, “It is too cold in Japan.”

Cimatu said they have already coordinated with the EastMinCom for the continuing search on the other missing vessels and crewmen. He said an aerial survey will still be conducted anytime today, but admitted that the sea is just so vast, and noted that the fishermen were rescued so far away from their point of origin. (Vanessa L. Almeda / MindaNews)