Gov’t gives up search for missing fishermen

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 16 Jan) – Lt. Gen. Jorge Segovia, head of Task Force Maritime Search SarGen, on Wednesday said the search and rescue operation for the still missing 352 fisherman has been called off, more than a month after super typhoon Pablo unleashed its wrath in eastern Mindanao.

“Our operations is shifting to support and rehabilitation operations and to deliver aid to survivors,” Segovia said in a press conference.

Segovia was accompanied by Mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio, who said the city has to move on.

Custodio said the city will be giving assistance to families of the missing fishermen as they recover from the loss of their loved ones.

At least 378 fishermen were reported missing several days after Pablo hit landfall in Davao Oriental that also left more than 1,000 dead.

Of the listed missing fishermen from 51 fishing vessels from at least 10 fishing companies here that were caught in the middle of the storm, 18 were found alive while 8 dead bodies were recovered.

Four of the fishing vessels were confirmed by survivors to have sunk at the height of Typhoon Pablo.

Only last week, Segovia refrained from issuing a statement on the fate of the missing fishermen. “It is a sensitive issue, especially for the families (of the victims),” he reasoned out.

At least three Philippine Navy ships and two floating assets of the Philippine Coast Guard were involved in the search and rescue mission.

A P-3C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft from the United States Navy was also dispatched to the area to help search for more survivors.

The operations, however, failed to recover any survivor other than those rescued by passing fishing vessels early in the tragedy.

Some relatives are hoping the fishermen are still alive.

Ana Lou Caspi-Nemenio, whose father is the ship captain of a catcher vessel of the Salazar-owned Thidcor fishing company, said she received reports that the crew of two of his father’s light boats were found in a state of shock while riding a bus somewhere between Leyte and Surigao.

But she could not verify the report.

Owners of the fishing vessels are still giving cash advances to the families of the missing fishermen.

But one fishing company has reportedly offered a cash assistance of P50,000 in exchange of a waiver and quit claim.

Rosanna Contreras, executive director of Soccsksargen Federation of Fishing and Allied Industry (SFFAI), however, said she has not received any information about the reported cash assistance.

SFFAI is handling all cash advances of families of the missing fishermen.

SFFAI said the Pablo tragedy was a big blow to the tuna industry, adding that the lost fishing vessels valued up to P640 million. (Edwin Espejo / MindaNews contributor)