Mindoro boat owners eye fallen trees for fishing vessels wrecked by Ursula
SAN PEDRO CITY, Laguna, Philippines — Operators of commercial fishing boats in San Jose town in Occidental Mindoro province sought government aid after Typhoon “Ursula” (international name: Phanfone), which hit the province during the Christmas holidays, wrecked more than 20 boats, forcing hundreds of crewmen out of jobs for the next couple of months.
More than the financial assistance, the shipowners were asking the government to release to them stacks of hardwood, either from the trees felled by the typhoon or even those confiscated by the go¬vernment from illegal logging operations in the past.
“The engines, we can start repairing them already. But what we really need are the materials to rebuild the boats soon,” said Allen dela Torre, whose fishing boats, named Thanksgiving 5 and AJ Thanksgiving, were da¬maged by the storm.
Another boat owner, Joe Parlocha, said they asked the local government of San Jose to help them secure permits from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for the immediate release of the lumber.
San Jose Vice Mayor Rod Agas, on Sunday, said they met last week with 20 commercial fishing boat operators, some of them had two vessels each damaged by the typhoon.
Agas said each one, with its hulls cracked open or its sterns broken, would need between P3 million and P4 million for repairs.
On the average, each vessel employs 30 to 100 people to go on a 15-day to a monthlong expedition to the West Philippine Sea.
Most of the crewmen are small fishermen from poor families in the coastal town and its islets.
“When calamities like this happen, the government immediately looks out for the small fishermen,” Agas said. “But it seems the government is not ready for this kind, invol¬ving commercial fishing boats. These are the ones who go out to the West Philippines Sea and supply fish to Malabon and Navotas [in Metro Manila].”
At least two fishermen from San Jose had gone missing since the typhoon, which swept through the Visayas, hit Min¬doro Island on Christmas Day.
One of the missing fishermen is Arvin Bantugan, 43, the chief mechanic of F/B Gem-Ver 1.
Bantugan, however, did not join Gem-Ver 1’s expedition in June 2019, when a Chinese trawler rammed the boat at Recto (Reed) Bank. The maritime incident gave internatio¬nal attention to the small fishing town of San Jose.
Bantugan only went back to the sea when Gem-Ver 1, after months of being grounded, returned to the West Philippine Sea in November.
Dela Torre and Parlocha, in separate telephone interviews, said it was the first time in decades of working in the sea that such a strong combination of waves and winds they described as a “tornado” hit them, hurling boats anchored about a kilometer away back to the shores.
“The boats were anchored but the waves flung them to the shore. When [they hit] land, my two men got trapped inside, we had to cut open the hull to get them out,” Dela Torre said.
Parlocha thought his three fishing boats, all named Athan, were safely docked before the typhoon hit, only to see them “thrown off by Ursula.”
Normally, owners assign a small crew, with its mechanic, to watch the boats while docked.
“When the waves hit them, my men jumped into the water,” Parlocha said.
Parlocha said two of his men died — Arnold Lee, whose body was recovered on Dec. 27, and Edwin Escondo, whose body, after days of being in saltwater, was so bloated his family was able to identify him only through “an extra finger in one hand.”
Another crew member, JR Lacorde, remained missing as of Sunday.
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