MANILA: A search and rescue operation is ongoing for 14 people missing from a Philippine fishing boat that collided with a Hong Kong-flagged cargo vessel off the coast of Occidental Mindoro province, authorities said Monday.
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said the collision between MV Vienna Wood and the fishing vessel Liberty 5 took place around 1:00 a.m. Sunday in rough waters off Tayamaan, Mamnurao.
PCG spokesperson Commodore Armand Balilo said the accident was first reported by the captain of MV Vienna Wood.
“After verifying the incident and acquiring further information from MV Vienna Wood, the PCG immediately activated SAR (search and rescue) operations to rescue the 12 missing fishermen, including its captain, as well as two passengers of the distressed fishing vessel,” Balilo told reporters.
FV Liberty 5, which is home-ported in Cagayan de Tawi-Tawi, was on its way to the Navotas fish port in Metro Manila when the collision occurred.
MV Vienna Wood, a bulk carrier, departed from Subic, Zambales, and was on its way to Australia. The PCG said it had 20 crew members on board. The vessel was carrying no cargo at the time of the incident.
Balilo said the PCG had deployed its ships and air assets to search for the missing Filipinos.
“We also issued a ‘notice to mariners’ for all vessels in the area to be on the lookout for any information regarding the incident.”
The capsized Liberty 5 was found around 10:00 a.m. on Sunday but without the crew. Reports said the boat was severely damaged.
MV Vienna Wood was escorted by the PCG to the port of Batangas.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the incident would be governed by the country’s maritime laws as it happened within the Philippines’ territorial waters.
“This is a matter to be governed by Philippine law,” he said. “This is an issue of Philippine Admiralty Law because the collision occurred in Philippine territorial waters. There is no international law application here other than foreign flagships can sail through under the concept of innocent passage. But as far as the accountability is concerned, Filipinos will be the one to decide on that because the collision happened in our waters.”
He added that there would be no implications for bilateral relations with China.
“It’s a collision that happened in our waters, so it will be resolved according to our Admiralty Law ... The rules of sea collision are similar to the rules being applied when there are road collisions. So there is no huge implication. It’s just a collision.”