ZAMBOANGA CITY: The Philippine Navy thanked Malaysia for rescuing 15 Filipinos after their boat drifted into Sabah on their way to the southern Philippine island of Taganak.
The Naval Forces in Western Mindanao said the Filipinos — seven of them employees of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and eight crew members — were repatriated on January 10.
It said the Filipinos, all residents of Tawi-Tawi province, left the capital town of Bongao on January 6 and were heading to Taganak when their boat developed engine trouble. They were rescued two days later by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) near the island of Kinabatangan in Sandakan.
The Filipinos, 13 men and two women, were handed over by the Malaysian government to the Philippine Navy along the border and brought them back home on January 11.
Philippine Navy’s Col. Nestor Narag Jr., director of the Maritime Coordinating Center in Tawi-Tawi, thanked his counterparts for rescuing the Filipinos.
Brig. Gen Romeo Racadio, commander of Naval Task Group Tawi-Tawi and Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi, also commended Malaysia for the rescue of the Filipinos.
The Bernama News Agency also quoted Sandakan MMEA Deputy Director of Operations Cdr. Ahmad Firdaus Shaari saying that they were alerted by the Eastern Sabah Security Command of a ship capsizing in the waters off Kinabatangan.
“They (Filipinos) were on their way from Bongao to Taganak Island to carry out a program when their ship encountered problems and could not be repaired,” Shaari told reporters just before sending off the rescued Filipinos to the Malaysian-Philippine border, where the Philippine Navy awaited their arrival.
“The ship then drifted into our waters and a strong wave pushed them further and landed on the coast of an island in Kinabatangan, where they realized that the ship was slowly sinking.”
He said about 40 MMEA personnel escorted the Filipinos in three boats and a ship to the border.
Shaari said all the victims were brought to Sandakan where a routine Covid-19 screening was conducted and found all were free from the virus, and were provided accommodation and food as well as other necessities, while arrangement was made to ensure their safe return to the Philippines.
One of the Filipinos, Karnahar Mayan, 41, said she and her colleagues were on their way to conduct training assessment at Taganak Island when the ship broke down in the middle of the sea.
“We left Bongao Island on the morning of January 6. Then, around 11:30 a.m., the ship broke down and we were left stranded at sea. The ship’s captain and mechanic tried to fix the engine, but by the following morning (January 7) when we woke up, we were still at sea,” she said, adding that a strong wave swept the ship to shore.
Mayan said the passengers and crew of the ship sought refuge on the top deck and was fortunate that there were people on the island catching crabs and giving them food and alerted the authorities. She said they were rescued at around 2 p.m. on January 8.