Navy wants fishing vessels to turn back amid approaching LPA

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/ 11 January)– Naval authorities have recommended the immediate recall of fishing fleets from this city that are currently operating off Mindanao’s eastern seas due to an approaching active low pressure area (LPA) that might potentially develop into a tropical storm.

Navy Commander Jeff Rene Nadugo, acting operations officer of the Task Force Maritime Search and Rescue SarGen (Sarangani/General Santos City), said they issued an advisory to local fishing companies to call back all their vessels and crew to ensure their safety in the wake of the impending weather disturbance.

The official said they received information that a number of local fishing companies have resumed their operations within Mindanao’s eastern seaboard where the LPA was tracked.

In an advisory, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration said the LPA was spotted as of 4 a.m. Friday at 380 kilometers southeast of this city, the “Tuna Capital of the Philippines.”

It said the eastern Mindanao area will experience cloudy skies with moderate to heavy rainshowers and thunderstorms, which may trigger flashfloods and landslides.

The rest of Mindanao will have cloudy skies with light to moderate rainshowers and thunderstorms.

At 10 a.m. Friday, PAGASA said in another weather advisory that the LPA was estimated at 240 km east of Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur, which is embedded along the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) affecting Mindanao

The state weather bureau said these weather systems are expected to bring moderate to heavy rains (5.0 – 15.0 mm/hr) and thunderstorms in the CARAGA Region, and in the provinces of Samar and Leyte, which may trigger flashfloods and landslides.

As a precaution, Nadugo said the fishing vessels deployed in the area should immediately take temporarily shelter in nearby ports until the weather condition improves.

“Since another potential storm is coming up and we know how (typhoon) Pablo had started at the same spot, I think it’s best for our fishing fleets out there to turn back and take cover somewhere safe,” the official said in an interview with a local television station.

Nadugo was referring to the onslaught of typhoon “Pablo” along Mindanao’s eastern seaboard in early December that left 352 fishermen from this city and nearby Sarangani province still missing.

The task force earlier said most of the missing fishermen were crew members of 47 fishing vessels owned by nine fishing companies based in this city that have remained unaccounted after being battered by huge waves and strong winds at the height of the typhoon last December 3.

The missing fishing vessels, which were maintaining payaos or fish aggregating devices located around 115 nautical miles off the eastern seaboard of Mindanao, were already on their way to the nearest ports when the storm had caught on them.

Pablo made landfall in Baganga, Davao Oriental at 4:45 a.m. December 4.

Nadugo said the area’s experiences during typhoon “Pablo” should serve as a lesson to everyone, especially the fishing companies and their crew.

“We should not take the LPAs for granted. I know they (fishing crew) can easily hurdle the impact of the LPAs, but it’s another story if it develops into a storm,” he said.

The task force earlier commissioned several rescue vessels, two Islander planes of the Philippine Air Force and a P-3C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft of the United States Navy to track down the missing fishermen, but no significant sightings have so far come up.

As of Friday, the search and rescue operations remained temporarily suspended due to the unfavorable weather, which is mainly due to the effects of the LPA that is embedded along an Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) affecting Mindanao. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)