By Freddie Lazaro
SAN FERNANDO CITY, La Union – Operatives from the Naval Forces Northern Luzon (NFNL), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Police Maritime Group in Region 1 have temporarily stopped search operations for seven Pangasinan fishermen reportedly missing in the West Philippine Sea last week.
Commodore Caesar Bernard N. Valencia, the NFNL’s commander and head of Task Force Karagatan, said on Wednesday the search and rescue operations on Tuesday were temporarily terminated at 7 p.m. due to unfavorable sea conditions.
During the search and rescue operations on Tuesday, he said two navy ships – the PC388 and PB322 which are stationed at the Sual fish port in Sual Pangasinan – were deployed from the coast of Pangasinan to Ilocos Sur.
“The search operation was temporarily stopped for the safety of the search team. But it will continue once the sea condition will be favorable again,” Valencia said.
Valencia said that he also coordinated with the local fishermen in the along the coastlines of Pangasinan to Ilocos Norte to report immediately to local authorities if they found any sign of the possible location of the missing fishermen.
Earlier, it was reported that the missing fishermen were aboard a fishing vessel with markings: FB NAREM 2 when they ventured out to sea on January 6, 2020. However, they failed to return in Infanta, Pangasinan on their return date, January 14 2020, as reported by the owner of fishing banca, Christine Macaraig.
The boat’s crew and missing fishermen were identified as Alberto Roldan, 27, the boat captain; Roderick Montemayor, 47; Homar Maglantay, 26; Ejay Dela Cruz, 24; and Jerome Maglantay; all are residents of Barangay Cato, Infanta,Pangasinan; Larry Legaspi, 31; and Jefferson Bernabe, 23, both residents of Barangay Hermosa, Dasol, Pangasinan.
Macaraig claimed she was able to reach FB NAREM 2 through radio communication last January 13. She was informed that the crew encountered big waves.
However, she has not been able to receive any further information on their situation or whereabouts since then.
The boat’s last reported location was at 60 nautical miles off Camaso Island in Dasol, Pangasinan.
Upon learning of the incident, Valencia has ordered the dispatch of all available naval and air assets and personnel nearest from the area to conduct search and rescue operation and maritime aerial surveillance.
He also coordinated with members of TF Karagatan, the PNP maritime Region1, PCG Northern Luzon and Bureu of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Region 1 to give all assistance to locate the missing boat and the crews.
“Since January 17 – 20, the members of the joint TF Karagatan have conducted massive search in the west Philippine sea, but the result was negative,” said Marine Captain Jojit R. Ofiaza, the spokesperson of the NFNL.
“We dispatched our naval and air asset to conduct search and rescue operation, and maritime aerial surveillance,” Ofiaza added.
Meanwhile, the BFAR has also deployed its multi-mission offshore vessel, BRP Lapu-Lapu, to conduct joint maritime patrol and search for the missing fishermen.