Tourists in Antique asked to observe safety after boat mishap
SAN JOSE De BUENAVISTA, Antique (Philippines News Agency) — The provincial tourism officer of Antique has told excursionists in the province to strictly observe safety as he called the Maundy Thursday speedboat mishap here, which resulted in one fatality, as “unanticipated”.
Jose Ramlu Villaluna, in an interview on Saturday, said that prior to the Holy Week, the provincial tourism office staff, together with the municipal tourism officers, already checked all the possible sites where tourists are expected to visit, including Mararison Island, one of the popular tourist spots in Culasi, Antique.
“We also launched the ‘Bantay Turista Hotline’ last Tuesday so that we could assist tourists in terms of their accommodations and other safety concerns,” Villaluna said.
On March 29, the ill-fated boat of Pandan Mayor Jonathan Tan and nine others, including two female celebrities, was reportedly on its way to Mararison Island, when it capsized after it was struck by strong waves off the seawaters of Sebaste, Antique.
Authorities rescued the mayor and eight others but one of the passengers, identified as Bennie Dable, drowned in the accident. Dable is said to be a bodyguard of Tan.
Villaluna said that what happened to Mayor Tan and his group was not really anticipated as preparations and safety procedures are all in place.
But, due to the Maundy Thursday boat mishap, the tourism office here is urging tourists to be extra careful. “We are reminding tourists to always observe safety,” he said.
The tourism officer also said that hopefully the incident would not cause fear to other tourists and that it would not affect the tourism industry of Antique, now considered by the Department of Tourism as its catch basin of tourists with the present situation in Boracay.
Villaluna said that he personally had been trying to call Mayor Tan on his mobile phone to get update but could not reach him.
Broderick Train, the Antique Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Officer, said that he was informed Tan and the other survivors are now safe and well after their rescue.
He said he got the information from Ernesto Galido, the Sebaste Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Officer (MDRRMO), who immediately responded to the scene after he got a radio call about the mishap.
Galido, in a phone interview with Philippine News Agency (PNA), said that they received the radio call at around 12:55 p.m. March 29 from a barangay councilor of Barangay Aras-asan, Sebaste.
“Our composite team of the Philippine National Police, Bureau of Fire Protection, Philippine Coast Guard and the DRRMO immediately responded but when we arrived at the site in Barangay Aras-asan the mayor and his group were already rescued by the local fishermen,” he said.
He said there were a total of 10 passengers but only three male adults, four female adults, and two children survived the ordeal. The remains of the lone fatality, a cousin of the mayor, had been retrieved.
Galido did not identify the survivors but media reports named two of the passengers as actresses Bianca Manalo and Ehra Madrigal.
“I cannot confirm if there was indeed an overcapacity of passengers,” Galido said.
“There was no mechanical problem on the speedboat and it was not raining then but the waves were so big,” Galido said. (PNA)