By Raymund Antonio
Four persons were confirmed dead while 240 passengers were rescued after a fastcraft on Thursday sank off between Dinahican Point, Infanta and Agta Point, Polillo Island, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said.
PCG’s main headquarters in Manila received a report from Coast Guard Station Northern Quezon that the fastcraft, Mercraft 3, with 251 passengers on board, went down at 11:27 a.m. in the vicinity.
Captain Armand Balilo, spokesman of the PCG, said Mercraft 3 departed from Ungos Port in Real Quezon and was en route to Polillo Island when the maritime incident occurred.
“As per initial information received, said craft has maximum capacity of 286 passengers and 251 were reportedly on board,” said Balilo.
“Hopefully, the number is correct and there is no excess passengers,” he added.
The search and rescue is still on for the seven missing passengers of Mercraft 3 while the cause of the sinking remains unclear.
PCG initially traced the sinking of the fastcraft to the bad weather condition.
“There is a huge possibility that the bad weather affected its sea travel,” Balilo told reporters in an interview.
“After the conduct of search and rescue, we will conduct our investigation and we will find out what really happened,” he said.
The Coast Guard has dispatched its rescue teams from Southern Luzon to Real Quezon.
At the same time, the maritime agency also coordinated with the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Southern Luzon Command for the deployment of its air and maritime assets for the SAR mission.
Responding to the incident, Balilo also said PCG’s multi-role response vessels were about to leave Manila for the conduct of the search and rescue.
“I was told there were already passengers who were rescued and on board their boats. Some of them were on their way to the Coast Guard station for accounting of passengers,” he said.
“We will continue [the rescue operation] even through the night,” the PCG spokesman said.
Balilo said the number of fatalities is still subject to verification.
The bodies of the four passengers were reportedly brought to Claro M. Recto Hospital in Infanta, Quezon.