Families cry for info on missing Filipino seamen

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 04 2020 09:00 AM | Updated as of Sep 04 2020 10:28 AM

This undated photo shows Andren Payas, rightmost, one of the Filipino crewmen of the cargo ship that capsized off Japan due to bad weather this week. Photo courtesy of Justine Marie Payas

MANILA — The wives of 2 of the 38 Filipino seafarers who went missing after their ship capsized off Japan cried Friday for information on their loved ones.

Liezyl Pitogo and Justine Marie Payas said they learned through social media that the cargo ship sank on Wednesday. The pair gets updates from their husbands’ manning agency and have not been contacted by the authorities.

“Ang totoo n’yan, hanggang ngayon, ilang days na ang nakalipas, walang kumo-contact sa amin para sa ganiyang bagay,” said Pitogo, who has 2 children with her husband Lindon.

(Until now, several days have already passed, no one is contacting us for updates.)

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Pitogo, who is in Quezon province, said she cannot go to Manila to talk to embassy officials because of the lockdowns meant to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“Ang hirap po para sa isang katulad ko na lilipas iyong maghapon na wala kaming mabalitaang kahit ano. Sana man lang po kahit kaunting pag-asa, iyong tulong n’yo po ibigay n’yo sa amin,” she said in an interview with ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo.

(It’s difficult for someone like me for a day to get by without hearing any news. I hope that you could give us a little hope, your help.)

“Alam ko pong panahon ng pandemic… pero kung ako lang po iyong malapit, siguro nagbantay na ako para sa kaniya, ako na mismo ang maghahanap sa kaniya. Kailangan po namin silang makita po,” she added.

(I know that there is a pandemic, but if I were only near, I would be the one looking out for him. We need to find them.)

Dozens of crew members, and nearly 6,000 cows, are thought lost at sea after a livestock ship capsized capsized in the East China Sea. Map/The New York Times

The ship, longer than a soccer field, lost an engine as it traversed choppy seas off the coast of Japan. Then a wave flooded its deck in the dark of night, forcing the vessel to list at a precarious angle, according to Filipino survivor Sareno Edvardo.

“When it was capsizing, an onboard announcement instructed us to wear a life jacket,” Edvardo later told the Japanese coast guard. “So I wore a life jacket and jumped into the sea.”

 After the ship sent a distress signal in the early hours of Wednesday, Japan scrambled three patrol planes and four coast guard boats. But it would be nearly 24 hours before rescuers found Edvardo, 45, bobbing in the East China Sea.

He was the only one, and he said he had watched the ship sink.

The ship was on its way from New Zealand to China.

Rescue efforts continued Thursday as Typhoon Maysak lashed parts of South Korea, north of where Edvardo was found, with heavy rain and gusts of up to 90 miles per hour, leaving hundreds of thousands of homes without power.

LABOR CHIEF FAILS TO GET UPDATES, TOO

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello said he tried but failed to get updates from officials in Japan until before dawn on Friday.

“Anytime na ‘pag may matanggap kaming balita o report, ipaparating namin,” he told TeleRadyo.

(Anytime that we get news or a report, we will relay it.)

Addressing the wives of the missing seafarers, he added: “Kagaya ninyo, ako ri’y nagtataka bakit walang balita.”

(Like you, I am puzzled about why there is no news.)

The Philippines is one of the world’s leading suppliers of merchant seafarers, whose remittances help to fuel the country’s economy. Last year, there were nearly 500,000 Filipino seafarers, on vessels ranging from oil tankers to cruise ships.

Lindon Pitogo, one of the 38 missing Filipino seamen, smiles in this undated photo provided by his wife, Liezyl, to ABS-CBN News

The capsized livestock carrier left Napier, New Zealand, on Aug. 14 with a cargo of 5,867 cattle and had been expected to arrive in the Chinese port city of Tangshan about 17 days later, New Zealand’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

Gulf Livestock 1, a 456-foot ship, is registered in Panama and was built as a livestock carrier in 2002, according to VesselFinder.com, a tracking website. A photo on the site shows cattle berths stacked high on its deck, as rooms might be on a luxury cruise liner.

— With a report from Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News; Mike Ives and Makiko Inoue, The New York Times