ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — The Malaysian Navy turned over to Philippine authorities on Wednesday four Filipino fishermen who were rescued after they were swept away by Tropical Depression Vinta last month and drifted at sea for six days from Palawan.
The victims were found last Dec. 29 on Billean Island, Malaysia, 59 nautical miles from Mangsee Island in Palawan, by members of the Malaysian Navy.
But their 19 other companions are missing, according to the captain of fishing boat FB Neri DR.
The boat was swept to the Malaysian island while the fishermen were trying to seek shelter from the storm that hit Palawan on the night of Dec. 23, according to Capt. Ronnie Gil Gaban, commander of Philippine Coast Guard Southwestern District.
Gaban said Malaysian Navy Commander Lt. Cdr. Jefrdin Bin Jamaliddin turned over the victims to Turtle Islands Mayor Berong Oliveros, the PCG, Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi and the police after providing them medical treatment.
The victims – identified as Arnel Viana, 40, boat captain; Joseph Aque Jarina, 30, chief mate; Roger Chavez Arceo, 49, chief engineer and crew Thomas Taboso, 47 – were immediately fetched by the PCG’s BRP Tubbataha that arrived here 9:30 p.m. Friday.
Viana, the boat captain, said he and his 23 crew aboard were seeking shelter at Mangsee Island when their vessel was destroyed.
He said they all managed to cling to their raft but woke up the next morning with only four of them left.
As they were adrift, Viana said they were forced to drink rain water and eat coconut found floating at sea.
“We couldn’t see (anything) except the sky and sea,” Viana said.
“We have to survive because we have families that are waiting for us,” he added with mixed emotions.
Viana said after six days at sea, they were relieved to have been spotted by members of the Malaysian Marines.
He said they were initially questioned on suspicions they could be members of the Abu Sayyaf or any other pirate group.
“We said no, we were fishermen washed away from Mangsee after our fishing boat sank due to Vinta. That’s the time we were assisted by the Malaysian Marines,” Viana said.
When was asked about the other members of his crew, Viana could not answer and tried to hold back tears.
The PCG here escorted the victims and provided them with assistance as they flew back to Navotas aboard a commercial flight yesterday morning.
The Philippine Star
January 7, 2018 – 12:01am
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