THREE Korean nationals were reported missing after they went diving off Mactan Island Sunday morning.
As of 7 p.m., rescuers were still searching for two men—diving instructor Baek Seung Kyoon, 34, and diver Heo Seung Yung, 45—and female diver Kim Eun, 31.
Meanwhile, bad weather kept the Coast Guard’s Central-Eastern Visayas Command from searching for seven fishermen whose boat, the Inday Sweet, reportedly sank last July 2 off Bantayan Island.
Most of the Coast Guard’s assets are still in Ormoc, where they joined search and rescue operations also last July 2 after the ferry Kim Nirvana-B capsized, killing at least 61 persons.
The state weather bureau advised yesterday against going out to sea because of tropical storm Egay, which as of 5 p.m. hovered west of Laoag City in Ilocos Norte. (Pagasa stands for Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration.)
Pagasa advised fisherfolk and small sea craft not to venture out over the seaboards of the Visayas and Luzon, at least until Egay leaves Philippine territory by Wednesday afternoon.
Andy Berame, deputy action officer of the City Disaster Management Office in Lapu-Lapu, said diving facilities have their own protocols. When the weather is bad, guests are normally allowed only to dive within a certain distance from the beach.
“Divers are discouraged to go to spots where they have to take a boat,” Berame said in a phone interview.
Baek, a male diving instructor, went diving with Heo and Kim off Barangay Punta Engaño, Lapu-Lapu City at 11 a.m. yesterday, police said.
The owner of the resort where the divers are staying asked for help from police after the three did not return to the resort at 3 p.m.
PO2 Niño Mancao of the Mactan Police Station said that rescuers from the Coast Guard and the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office helped look for the Korean divers.
He advised the relatives and the boat owner not to pursue search and rescue at this time for their own safety.
In Bantayan, the Coast Guard station has also notified all passing vessels to be on the lookout for the motorized banca Inday Sweet, which is green and weighs about 14.88 gross tons.
Commodore Enrico Evangelista, commander of the PCG Central-Eastern Visayas Command, told Sun.Star Cebu that their personnel have been trying to search for the seven fishermen, but rough seas kept them from doing so.
The fishing boat reportedly sank between Tanguingu Islet off Madridejos town and Gigantes Island in Panay, just minutes after one of the seven fishermen on board called a relative to ask for help after encountering big waves.
“We did our best, but it is too risky for the rescue responders to undertake the operations at this time,” Evangelista said.
Strong winds and rough seas yesterday also caused the cancellation of some boat trips and flights.
Vessels below 250 gross tons (GRT) were not allowed to leave port, the Cebu Port Authority (CPA) said.
CPA General Manager Edmund Tan said that 61 passengers were stranded at Terminal 1 in Pier 1 and one at Terminal 2 in Pier 3 yesterday.
Port Police Senior Supt.Glenn Sarador said that except for Mv Oceanjet 7, all trips of fastcraft vessels were canceled. Trips to Bato, Leyte and Baybay, Leyte were also called off.
The PCG allowed the Mv Oceanjet 7 to sail despite the bad weather because it is larger than other fast craft vessels.
Although vessels above 250 gross tons were allowed to sail, some suspended their operations as a precaution, Evangelista said.
As a result, 15 vessels and 13 passenger motor bancas were stranded within the region, as well as some 388 passengers.
At the Mactan Cebu International Airport, a Cebu-Ozamis flight was also cancelled due to the typhoon.
In Bantayan, the owner of the missing fishing boat and the relatives of seven fishermen were dismayed, claiming that the Coast Guard has failed to help them search for the vessel and their kin.
The Inday Sweet, a motorboat with an outrigger, was on its way to the Visayan Sea from Victorias City in Negros Occidental last Thursday, when it ran into huge waves.
The boat is believed to have capsized.
Ernie Vergara, whose brother is the boat’s captain, said they did not resume the search and rescue operation yesterday because their boats could not endure the waves.
Vergara, who headed the operation, said they are temporarily staying in Masbate and waiting for weather to calm so they can continue searching.
“Hahanapin pa rin namin (we will still look for them),” Vergara said.
Anna Mae Claro, who owns Inday Sweet, said her three motorboats and another owned by her friend were the only ones conducting the search since the boat disappeared.
The Coast Guard has called her for updates, she said, but told her they did not have a vessel available for the search and rescue operation.
Former Madridejos councilor Emie Gabito, whom the relatives of one of the missing fishermen asked for help, said the outrigger of one of the motorboats used in the search broke last Saturday.
“Unta lang ba bisag gibahin-bahin nila ang mga resources (They should have divided their resources),” Gabito said, referring to the Coast Guard, which has been kept busy by the search and rescue off Ormoc.