MANILA -- Almost 9,600 shipping passengers have been stranded in Central and Eastern Visayas, as well as in Bicol Region, as Tropical Depression “Agaton” continues to move slowly to Surigao City on Saturday.

As of 3 p.m., Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) spokesman Commander Armando Balilo said a total of 9,574 passengers are stranded in the ports of Cebu, Dumaguete, Maasin, Catbalogan, Masbate, Sorsogon and Camarines Sur due to rough seas brought by the storm.

Balilo maintained that sea travel for commercial shipping lines are prohibited when a public storm warning signal is hoisted over specific areas.

He also warned the public that travel is risky over the seaboards of Luzon, Visayas and Caraga. Fishermen, even in those areas not directly affected by the storm, were advised to temporarily postpone their fishing ventures until the sea and weather conditions improve.

Agaton was last spotted around 145 kilometers east of Surigao City with maximum sustained winds of 55kilometers per hour (kph) near the center, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said.

The storm was forecast to move west at 5 kph.

Storm Signal Number 1 is currently hoisted in the provinces of Surigao del Norte, including Siargao Island, Surigao del Sur, Dinagat Province, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley.

Meanwhile, rescuers have finally rendered assistance to the distressed passengers of M/V Our Lady of All Nations that ran aground along Danajon Bank in Bohol while supposedly on its way to Cebu Port last Thursday.

Balilo said all the 90 passengers and crew were rescued and put to safety before lunchtime of Saturday after the crew of the PCG’s 56-meter search and rescue vessel BRP-Edsa was finally able to approach the distressed vessel, which was on the shallow and rocky part of the sea.

The Coast Guard spokesperson explained that they waited for the sea condition to improve during high tide before getting a chance to approach the vessel and rescue passengers. (John Carlo Cahinhinan/Sunnex)