Families of missing seafarers cry for more search efforts

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The families of 36 Filipino seafarers who remain missing after a ship sunk in Japan earlier this month said they are not giving up until they have found their loved ones. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 16) — The families of 36 Filipino seafarers who remain missing after a ship sunk in Japan earlier this month said they are not giving up until they have found their loved ones.

In an online press conference on Wednesday, the relatives of the crew members reached out to the Philippine government as well as the owning company and manning agency of Gulf Livestock 1 to coordinate with other countries to intensify their search and rescue.

Maya Addug-Sanchez, sister of ship captain Dante Addug, called out Dubai-based Gulf Navigation Holdings, the owner of the sunken ship, to actively participate in the search. She and other family members urged the company to send advanced equipment or professional divers to help them find their relatives.

"It is a multi-billion company, magkano lang sa kanila ang magpadala ng high-tech devices?" she told reporters. "'Yung pinakaunang request na i-check 'yung barko, I cannot comprehend kung bakit hanggang ngayon hindi magawa."

[Translation: It is a multi-billion company, how much would it cost them to send over high-tech devices? Our first request to check the ship, I cannot comprehend why they have not done it until now.]

Liberty Seneres, wife of the ship's chief engineer Aristotle Sabillena, said the families of missing seafarers also wanted nearby countries like Korea and China to check their islands.

"We're still pleading for more help...alam mo 'yung feeling na nafu-frusrate kasi hindi namin alam kung nasaan sila?" she said.

[Translation: We're still pleading for help...do you know the feeling of being frustrated because we do not know where they are?]

Hours later, Gulf Navigation Holdings and LMA Korpil, the manning agency, released a joint statement saying they have urged the Japanese Coast Guard and nation states bordering the South China Sea to include inspecting their islands in their search operations.

"These messages have been reinforced by Owners presenting their request to the UAE Government, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to make and support the request to The Japanese, Chinese and Korean Governments, via their embassies, to continue with the search," the statement said.

The companies also said that the suggestion to send a team of divers is under consideration, adding that an investigation into the incident will also take place with a report to be sent to the families explaining how the accident occurred.

The ship Gulf Livestock 1 was carrying 43 people - 39 Filipinos, two Australians and two New Zealanders - when it sunk during the onslaught of a typhoon on September 2. The Japanese Coast Guard launched search and rescue operations using aircrafts, but later eased their search on September 10 after days of no progress.

Sanchez said although Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello had been updating them she had hoped the government would relay the steps they have taken so far in looking for the missing crew.

"If in the event some of our loved ones were unable to escape the vessel, then at least a recovery of human remains can be conducted to provide us families with some closure," she urged.

Remains to be returned

Meanwhile, the remains of one of the rescued seafarers will be flown back on Thursday, Bello said.

The flight carrying Joel Linao's remains will arrive from Tokyo at 5 p.m., the secretary told reporters. On the other hand, the two rescued survivors will arrive on September 19, the state media said, citing a report from the Labor Department.

"We handled all the preparation for the repatriation of Linao and we have extended all possible assistance for the survivors," said Bello in a "virtual cafe" session with the media.