Published: April 11, 2005
After weeks of searching, the efforts of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) together with the US Pacific Command, who were called upon to assist by Senator Richard Gordon, paid off when the four Filipino fishermen reported missing since 21 March 2005 were finally found and rescued.
Senator Gordon today commended the PCG for exerting all efforts to locate and save the fishermen and thanked the US government for providing support which led to the successful rescue.
“We thank the US Pacific Command (US PACOM) for aiding the Philippine Navy by immediately responding to our request for assistance. It demonstrates the long standing friendship & cooperation between the Philippines and the US Government,” Gordon said.
He also acknowledged the media, particularly DZRH, for bringing the incident to his attention on which he acted on immediately. “The media is a partner of the government in public service, not just in combating crime and corruption but also in emergency situations like this,” emphasized Gordon.
On 06 April, DZRH relayed information to Gordon about the lost fishermen in the Scarborough Shoal. They were aboard F/BCA Maria Emelyn 2 which was separated from its mother boat, FB Guamenia. Emelyn was adrift and sailed at two to three knots for about 12 hours until it lost fuel. Though the Dekada Communications Group was able to establish contact with the fishermen through radio, the PCG was unable to locate them.
Gordon immediately called up the Joseph Mussomeli, Deputy Chief of Mission of the US Embassy, to request for possible assistance and coordinated with the US PACOM in Hawaii to ask for a rescue aircraft to be used for the search and rescue operations.
The US PACOM sent a P3 Orion plane which didn’t stop the search for three days until they have spotted the fishermen yesterday at 60 nautical miles north northeast of Spratly Island. The rescue aircraft dropped smoke near the vessel to confirm its identity upon which the captain responded positively. The P3 Orion discovered a Chinese vessel about two hours away from Emelyn and attempted to vector it and requested to facilitate rescue. However, its captain refused to extend assistance due to territorial concerns. Gordon requested the US PACOM to send another rescue aircraft which flew from Kadena. At the same time, the Philippine Navy sent off to Spratly Island to pick up the fishermen. At around 7am today, the Philippine Navy confirmed the success of the rescue.
“We are happy for the success of the rescue mission but at the same time alarmed with the realization on how much our coast guard is lacking in terms of equipment and training capability that we even have to ask help from other countries for the rescue of our people. This is something we now have to focus on,” said Gordon.