3 Filipino Fishermen Found Adrift In Palauan Waters

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Multiple vessels allegedly passed them, but offered no help

By Aurea Gerundio-Dizon

KOROR, Palau (Island Times, Oct. 7, 2013) – Three Filipino fishermen were rescued Thursday morning (October 3) while drifting in Palau waters for more than a month.

Fishermen Leomil Ungab, 38, Milnard Ungab, 28, and Junjun Ibañez, 37 were reportedly holding on to a raft when they were spotted floating by a Filipino captain from Kuniyoshi Fishing Company (KFC).

In an interview with the fishermen, it was known that the three of them are from Uhaw Fatima, General Santos City but working in Indonesia as fishermen.

The older Ungab disclosed that they left Bitung, Indonesia to go out fishing toward the last week of August.

On the first day at sea, about 27 miles away from port, their small boat’s engine reportedly stopped. Leomil said they were able to fix the engine but after a few days, it went down again.

Since then, Leomil said their boat was just floating and being carried away by the waves.

Nearly a week since the engine stopped working, Leomil said they saw a ship passing by. They reportedly tried to call for help but were unnoticed.

Leomil said another fishing vessel with Chinese-looking crew came by also but their requests for assistance were reportedly ignored. The captain reportedly looked at them but then went past them.

After two weeks since they reached 27 miles away from port, Leomil said their boat ran out of gas already and their food, which was good for two weeks only, were all consumed.

Another week later, due to very bad weather, the boat capsized around 11 p.m. Leomil said they were able to make a small raft on which they were holding on to while floating at sea and trying to call for help.

He said that they also tied themselves together with a thing they used for fishing so they would not be taken by the tide toward different directions.

While floating with a small raft, Leomil said a vessel with Chinese-looking crew passed by again but did not stop despite their call for help.

When the KFC vessel came by, Leomil said they were waving for help and finally got rescued. The fishermen were reportedly located in Palau waters, 800 miles from their fishing village in Bitung, Indonesia.

Leomil said they were able to go onboard the KFC vessel at 10 a.m. At around 5 p.m. of the same day, they reached the Malakal port.

Leomil recalled that while floating at sea, they fed themselves with squid and drank rainwater.

From the port, Immigration Dir. Jenkins Mariur then informed Philippines Honorary Consul Eric Whipps.

Whipps, in cooperation with the Bureau of Marine Law, Immigration and Labor Office met with the three rescued fishermen.

On Friday, the fishermen were brought to Belau National Hospital for check up.

Consul Whipps yesterday said his office will forward statements of the fishermen to the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs and Philippine Consulate General in Guam and will wait for their advice.

"Currently we are seeking help from the community and the Palau Government while they are here. They have no identification so the Philippine authorities will need to establish their citizenship first and then they will advise on what kind of aid they can offer for repatriation to the Philippines," Whipps said.

Yesterday, the fishermen received cash donation amounting $366.45 and clothes from The Filipino Community in Palau and Filipino Community Auxiliary Pastoral Council. Aurora del Rosario and Issa Gomez, representing TFCP and FCAPC, handed over the donations to the fishermen at Surangel and Son’s Travel Agency.

Currently, the rescued fishermen are taking shelter at the apartment owned by Surangel and Sons Company.

The fishermen repeatedly expressed gratitude to Consul Whipps and his family who are reportedly providing them food as well while they are here. They also thanked the Filipino community here for the cash and clothes donated to them.

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