RESCUED. The Philippine Navy, in coordination with its Malaysian counterpart, rescues a Philippine-flagged wooden-hulled vessel on Wednesday (Nov. 30, 2022) near the coast of North Borneo. The vessel, M/L Laiza 1, departed Bongao, the capital of Tawi-Tawi, on Nov. 26 bound for Turtle Islands municipality, but was reported missing after it failed to reach its destination. (Photo courtesy of Naval Task Force Tawi-Tawi)

ZAMBOANGA CITY – The Philippine Navy (PN) in collaboration with the Maritime Command Center (MCC) in Tawi-Tawi province and its Malaysian counterpart, MCC-Tawau, have rescued a Philippine-flagged wooden-hulled vessel with 27 people aboard drifting at sea for four days and four nights, Navy officials said Saturday.

Lt. Senior Grade Chester Ross Cabaltera, Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM) information officer, said the BRP-Florencio Iñigo rescued M/L Laiza 1 and its 12-man crew and 15 passengers on Wednesday evening near the coast of North Borneo.

Cabaltera said M/L Laiza 1, which departed Bongao, the capital town of Tawi-Tawi on Nov. 26 bound for Turtle Islands municipality, was reported missing after it failed to reach its destination due to engine malfunction.

“The missing report emanated from PCG (Philippine Coast Guard) Sub-station Bongao and subsequently forwarded to MCC Tawi-Tawi, who coordinated to MCC Tawau,” Cabaltera said.

He said a joint search and rescue operation was immediately conducted by the Turtle Islands municipal government in collaboration with other law enforcement agencies in its immediate waters but failed to locate M/L Laiza 1.

The MCC-Tawau was able to locate M/L Laiza 1 on Nov. 30 and coordinated with MCC Tawi-Tawi prompting the Naval Task Group (NTG)-Tawi-Tawi to deploy BRP-Iñigo.

After they were rescued, BRP-Iñigo transported the crew and passengers to Lamion wharf in Bongao where they were immediately given medical attention, clothes and food and later turned over to the Tawi-Tawi provincial government.

The families of all the rescued individuals expressed their gratitude to the Navy and other security forces, government agencies that contributed to the successful recovery of the vessel.

“We are glad that our friends from MCC-Tawau are always ready to assist us in such events and the safe recovery was a result of the working Trilateral Cooperative Arrangement (TCA) with the Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines,” said Brig. Gen. Romeo Racadio, 2nd Marine Brigade and NTG-Tawi-Tawi commander, in a statement Saturday.

The Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia have signed a TCA establishing MCCs to serve as security posts to monitor ships that operate and patrol in the tri-border of the three countries.

One of the functions of the MCC is to serve as a communication network to facilitate coordination during emergencies. (PNA)