MISSING AFTER COLLISION. The Hong Kong cargo vessel Vienna Wood as photographed by Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) personnel during an investigation on Tuesday (June 30, 2020). The PCG on Thursday (July 2, 2020) said the search and rescue (SAR) operations for the 14 missing crewmen and passengers of the Filipino vessel is still ongoing. (Photo courtesy of PCG Commodore Armando Balilo)

MANILA – Four days after fishing vessel Liberty 5’s collision with Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship, Vienna Wood, on Sunday, government authorities continue the search for its 14 missing crewmen and passengers.

In a radio interview over DZRH on Thursday, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Spokesperson Commodore Armando Balilo said three ships were currently involved in the search and rescue (SAR) operations for the missing Filipinos since Sunday — BRP Boracay, BRP Malapascua, and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources vessel MCS 3009 — all manned by PCG personnel.

Currently, he said, the SAR team is looking into the possibility that the missing fishermen were trapped under their capsized fishing vessel.

However, he said that the technical divers looking for the missing vessel can only reach 100 meters in depth.

“PCG and PCGA (PCG Auxiliary) are now reaching out to the families of the missing fishermen to provide necessary assistance,” Balilo said.

In a message to reporters, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) enumerated its ongoing search areas off Occidental Mindoro, with current conditions of moderate to rough seas.

“Seaborne patrol operations at the shoreline of Barangay Tubili, Paluan, Occidental Mindoro to Paluan Bay; vicinity waters off Sablayan Point, Occidental Mindoro; and vicinity waters west off Lubang Island and Cape Calavite, Occidental Mindoro,” it said.

Aerial surveillance, it said, is continuing, with the Philippine Air Force (PAF) searching the vicinity of Cape Calavite.

Civilians also continue to join the search along with the Maritime Group of the Philippine National Police in conducting mobile patrol and information gathering along the shoreline of Santa Cruz, Occidental Mindoro.

Assistance has also been provided by the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MDRRMO) of Sablayan town; MDRRMO–Lubang; the Bureau of Fire Protection; Bantay-Dagat–Lubang; and the boatmen of Apo Reef.

Earlier, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the collision between the Filipino fishing vessel and the Hong Kong ship will remain a domestic case after China expressed willingness to provide assistance on the matter.

“It’s the Philippines’ exclusive jurisdiction. We will not allow foreigners to exercise criminal jurisdiction and civil jurisdiction over a matter that the Philippine authorities have exclusive jurisdiction,” Roque said.

The incident, he said, will be investigated by the PCG and the Maritime Industry Authority, and followed by the determination of criminal and civil liability by Philippine courts. (PNA)

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