178 people stranded in Isla de Gigantes rescued

HUNGRY, sick, and stressed are the words of 178 stranded passengers, mostly tourists, left in isolation in Isla de Gigantes when the passenger motorized bancas stopped their operations due to bad weather, gale warnings and Iloilo Strait sea accident.

“Why now?” an old woman who refused to be identified asked why it was only now that they were rescued.

Most of the resources of the Philippine Navy and Philippine Coast Guard last week were on a search and retrieval operation for the missing victims of three motorized bancas that capsized last August 3 along Iloilo Strait.

The stranded passengers in Isla de Gigantes were rescued by the Coast Guard vessel BRP Cape Engaño on Saturday, August 10, when it delivered 3,500 boxes of relief goods to the local residents.

The staff of Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) onboard the vessel distributed a box containing two packs of rice, corned beef and coffee good for two to three days to each family. Around 3,500 families are in need of food in the island after the Coast Guard suspended the operation of all passenger motorized bancas in Iloilo on August 3.

Just when the DSWD and Office of Civil Defense finished unloading the boxes, several motorized bancas approached the BRP Camp Engaño with more than 20 passengers each, with tourists from Manila, who were stranded since August 3.

Hundreds of tourists visit the Isla de Gigantes everyday for a fee of P1,000 per head with a package of five island tour, a lunch of sumptuous seafood and scenes of white beaches and natured.

The group of islands in Isla de Gigantes are tourist spots in Iloilo famous for its white beaches, hidden lagoon and seafood. Isla de Gigantes is part of Municipality of Carles, the last coastal town in Northern Iloilo.

However, for these tourists, the day of lively and beautiful experience became a seven-day surviving ordeal.

Ross Cunanan who was rescued with a leg injury said it was an experience that he and his friends will never forget.

Cunanan and his friends left Guimaras Friday for Carles, a day short when three motorized bancas capsized in Iloilo Strait.

On Saturday, August 3, they went to Isla de Gigantes for a usual island tour when they were told that motorized bancas are not allowed to transport passengers to the mainland of Carles town. With them are 97 are from Passi City of Iloilo Province mostly composed of barangay councilors, treasurer and secretaries.

They were fortunate in Guimaras but stranded in Isla de Gigantes.

They rented some rooms and bought food stored by local residents. However, the island is also isolated where local residents cannot buy food from the mainland and the food they have in store is already running out until the Coast Guard arrived on Saturday, August 10 to deliver relief goods.

When they were aboard the Coast Guard vessel, the crew were busy identifying who needed medical attention. Children, mothers, and pregnant women were given priority to occupy the officers and crew’s mess room so they can rest. Some were seated at the hallway. However, most of them are exhausted and hungry while others suffering from hypertension were given water and medicine.

According to the medical officer of BRP Cape Engaño, 18 passengers where hypertensive, one had knee injury and asthma.

All stranded tourists arrived safely in the port of Estancia Town a nearby town of Carles around 3 p.m. Saturday. No motorized bancas are still allowed to operate in the area. (Leo Solinap/SunStar Philippines)


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