5 fishermen missing near Scarborough back home

MANILA, Philippines – Five fishermen who went missing after heading to Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal) off Zambales province are back home a week after encountering engine trouble, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said on Tuesday, November 29.

The PCG said the fishermen are back in Riverside Lipay in Sta Cruz, Zambales, after their boat, the F/Bca Antalan Tabat, was towed to safety.

The fishermen headed out to the rich fishing ground on November 21, but the engine of their boat conked out and left them stranded near the shoal.

“Investigation revealed that the boat encountered engine trouble last November 21 and was dead on the water for several days,” the PCG said.

Four days later, the fishermen managed to “utilize their small back-up engine” until they reached Payao, where their boat was towed by F/Bca Angel. Payao is 56 nautical miles from Sta Cruz.

PCG District National Capital Region-Central Luzon said the missing vessel was reported to the Coast Guard Sub-station in Sta Cruz Friday afternoon, November 25.

The PCG then dispatched its lead patrol vessel, the BRP Tubbataha, and its islander plane to conduct a search and rescue mission in the vicinity of Scarborough.

The PCG also issued a notice to all vessels passing by the area to give assistance to the fishermen in case they find them.

The PCG had been conducting regular patrols to Scarborough Shoal – the site of a tense standoff between Philippine and Chinese coast guard vessels in 2012 – since August, or shortly after the openly China-friendly Duterte administration took over. 

President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to sign an executive order declaring Scarborough Shoal a marine sanctuary, an area where fishing is not allowed, and expects China to do the same. – Rappler.com