SEARCH and rescue operations continue without let-up for the three Zamboanga City Government employees and boatman who went missing while en route to the mainland from Great Sta. Cruz Island aboard a motorboat Tuesday dawn.
This, as authorities consider the incident as a maritime accident and not a terrorist initiated action, according to City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Officer Elmeir Jade Apolinario, who heads the Emergency Operations Center.
Missing are: Badzair Attan, 46, a casual employee; and, Mudzmar Habing and Ibrahim Hassan, 37, both job order employees--all detailed with the Protected Area Management Office (PAMO), and Rasbi Ambiting, 22, the boatman.
All are residents of Great Sta. Cruz Island and were en route to the mainland aboard a motorboat Tuesday dawn.
However, the group did not arrive at their destination several hours after they left the island prompting authorities to conduct search and rescue operations.
Debris from the motorboat were recovered at the Little Sta. Cruz Island and in a coastal village in the city's west coast.
Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar has mobilized all government resources to investigate the incident and to find the victims the soonest possible time.
Meanwhile, it is business as usual at the Great Sta. Cruz Island beach.
Apolinario said the beach remains open for visits and tours as he sought to allay fears about security measures.
“We see no reason why we have to close the island to tourist for security purposes unless there are evidences presented to support the same. As of now we continue operating the island as a protected area,” he said.
The Apolinario-led CDRRMO and PAMO led by Richard Aliangan, together with the Coast Guard, Air Force, Navy, Maritime police, Zamboanga City Police Office, and Task Force Zamboanga, continue to investigate the matter.
Salazar visited the families of the missing staff and boatman at the island to extend assistance and express solidarity with the Great Sta. Cruz Island community in this time of difficulty.
She asked the people of Zamboanga to remain calm and vigilant, and above all, to pray for the safety and recovery of the missing individuals. (SunStar Philippines)