MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) is verifying reports that nine fishermen who were reported missing while fishing near the disputed Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal last Oct. 1 have drifted to Mindoro and are now safe.
Lt. Cmdr. Armand Balilo, PCG spokesman, said that one of the relatives of the missing fishermen had advised their action office in Zambales of receiving a text message from one of the missing fishermen, saying that they are alive and currently stranded at Cabra Island in Mindoro.
“We are still verifying this information with our PCG unit in Mindoro,” Balilo said.
The nine fishermen, mostly from Iba, Zambales, were last monitored to be fishing in the vicinity of Panatag Shoal on board the F/B Jericho.
Their disappearance was only reported last Oct. 10 with the PCG, which immediately conducted search and rescue operations.
Balilo identified the missing fishermen as Ricky Quidez, Mac-Mac Quidez, Melbert Quidez, Joven Cervantes, Glen Reyes, Gardo Docusin, Rogelio Elesterio Sr., Joseph Valdez and Bibiano de la Peña.
He said the boat could have been damaged by waves caused by stormy weather, and then drifted to Mindoro.
At the time of their disappearance, there was a prevailing weather disturbance over the West Philippine Sea.
Panatag Shoal, near the Zambales coastline, has been at the center of the territorial dispute between the Philippines and China.
The Philippines had declared a fishing ban at the shoal but the ban was later lifted.
Malacañang also ordered the pullout of two government vessels from the area to ease tensions.