PANGLAO, The Philippines -- Four scuba divers, three of which are foreigners, including three pumboat crew were rescued after the pumpboat they were riding developed engine trouble mid-sea between Bohol and Camiguin islands.
Elmer Loreno, boat captain, from Sunrise, Tawala, Panglao told the Chronicle during an exclusive interview that they were drifting for more than 48 hours as passing vessels did not respond despite the distress signals they made.
He identified the scuba divers as Ian Willies, Ali Swandel, Mr. Fritchen and a certain Ruby Hora, from Panglao town. They left Panglao Island at 7 a.m. last Sunday to bring the drivers for an overnight stay in Camiguin.
“Big waves prevented us from reaching the shorelines of Camiguin,” Loreno narrated until they ran out of fuel and the pumpboat’s battery discharged.
Three hours after they departed from Scuba World at Alona Beach in Panglao, they were already adrift at mid-sea.
Since part of the trip was an overnight stay in Camiguin, Loreno brought food, including rice which they ate while awaiting rescue.
They set their shirts on fire to create signals in a hope that the passing vessels will rescue them, but to no avail, Loreno said.
The waves measured to about six meters high as strong winds, estimated at 40 to 60 kph, hit them while at mid-sea.
Alerted on the incident, PNP Prov’l Director Arturo Evangelista coordinated a rescue operation by contacting agencies based in Cebu, including a chopper for fear that the divers were kidnapped.
The divers and the three crewmen were rescued by bonnet- wearing fishermen who chanced upon them. Fearing that they were there to abduct them, the skipper texted authorities until the report reached Col. Evangelista.
He alerted authorities based at Camp Evangelista in Cagayan de Oro City who alerted Region 10 PNP under Col. Roland Destora.
Col. Evangelista coordinated the rescue operation including the fielding of a navy vessel to ferry back the survivors to Panglao last night.
Panglao Mayor Doloreich Dumaluan acted swiftly upon receiving reports from Alona that a pumpboat was reported missing since Sunday noon. He withheld information since there was sketchy report that the scuba drivers were kidnapped by three bonnet-wearing fishermen who pulled them towards Iligan City.
However, when reports were verified yesterday noon, Mayor Dumaluan called station dyRD and denied reports that the divers were kidnapped.
From the seas, they were brought to Initaw PNP station in Misamis Oriental where they were declared safe.
When contacted by dyRD through his cellular phone, Loreno thanked the alert cops of Initaw who assisted in the rescue operation.
Capt. Joey Pacito Yape, head of CIDG based in Cagayan de Oro was one of the officers who received the survivors yesterday afternoon. Yape is the son of the late Judge Pacito Yape who was previously assigned in the province.
Mayor Dumaluan lauded the quick rescue operation immediately after he alerted Col. Evangelista on the reported missing scuba divers. However, he urged boatmen and owners of diving shops to provide radio contacts in their pumpboats, and not just rely on their cellular phones.
However, Dumaluan said that the fast rescue would prove the competence of the line agencies involved in rescue operations in the areas near Panglao Island.
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