By: Jennifer P. Rendon
Do not blame the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) over the Boracay dragon boat tragedy that claimed seven lives, a top official of the agency said.
Commodore Allan Victor dela Vega, commander of the Coast Guard District – Western Visayas (CGD-WV), said their personnel did everything they could to respond and rescue the victims.
“It’s an accident and it’s not even a passenger boat. But just the same, we couldn’t take that from them na may sisihin sila over what happened,” he said.
However, “reality is we couldn’t be held accountable for every sea tragedy that happens,” dele Vega said.
But he noted that boats passing by the scene were also obligated to assist other boats in distress.
“I hope people would understand that PCG couldn’t be everywhere, especially in big seas,” he said.
A boat carrying 20 paddlers and one steersman of the Boracay Dragon Force overturned while rowing from Bulabog Beach to the White Beach of Boracay Island morning of Sept. 25, 2019.
Seven paddlers were declared dead on arrival (DOA) after being taken to the hospital – Mark Vincent Navarete, Omar Arcob, Maricel Tan, Yohan Tan, Richel Montoya, Antonette Supranes, and John Vincent Natividad.
Dela Vega said they were not informed that the team was training in the area.
Had they been informed, they could have provided escorts.
“Safety nets could have been put into place,” he said.
Meanwhile, Lt. Commander Marlowe Acevedo, PCG-Aklan Station chief, asserted they did everything to rescue the victims.
He said they were not informed that the Boracay Dragon Force was training in the area.
Acevedo said that if they were informed of the training, they could have given the team advanced assessment on the wearing of vest and informed them of the sea condition.
The PCG has started a Marine Casualty Investigation into the incident.
Dela Vega said personnel from CGD-WV are already in Boracay for the probe.
“We would want to ascertain the cause of the accident and what are the policies that need to be adopted not only by MARINA (Maritime Industry Authority) and PCG but also by the local government unit, the sports commission, the federation or clubs which they are members,” he said.
Basically, dela Vega said they will apply lessons learnt from the tragedy so they can prevent the same incident from happening again.
According to reports, the Boracay Dragon Boat Team was training for weeks at Bulabog Beach in Barangay Balabag but transferred to the White Beach because the winds changed from southwest monsoon (habagat) to northeast monsoon (amihan) three days ago.
While paddling, the team encountered a sudden violent gust of wind before they reached the third bay of Tulubhan Beach in Sitio Tulubhan in Manocmanoc, Boracay Island.
Waves started to swell and then hit the boat, filling it with water, eventually capsizing it.
The group has been practicing for weeks in the famous tourist destination for an international competition to be held in Taiwan late this year.
Following the incident, the Boracay Inter-Agency Rehabilitation Management Group said it would temporarily suspend all dragon boat races.
Natividad Bernardino, the agency’s general manager, said she would verbally instruct dragon boat racers to cease from doing races, training, and practices, while they are reviewing the safety protocols for the conduct of such activities.