CAMP JUAN, Laoag City, Jan. 28–Senior Superintendent Sterling Blanco, acting police provincial director of Ilocos Norte, reported that none of the concerned government agencies had voluntarily admitted blame on the alleged Jan. 17, 2015 escape of the seized Taiwanese fishing vessel and its seven crew members from the Currimao seaport, this province.

S/S Blanco, chairman of the Provincial Committee on Illegal Entrants (PCOIE), convened anew to a conference here yesterday the members of the said body and the concerned government agencies as far as the missing foreign vessel is concerned.

The second conference, held at the PD’s Grill at Camp Juan here, mainly tackled the unresolved case of the foreign ship escape incident.

Their first meeting on this matter was held last Jan. 21, five days after the reported escape of the said foreign ship and its seven crew members composed of four Indonesians and three Taiwanese nationals.

Those who attended yesterday’s conference presided by PD Blanco include OIC provincial prosecutor Rommel Calupig, DILG provincial director Roger Daquioag, Lloyd Camangeg of Bureau of Customs, PO2 Michael Guray of Philippine Coast Guards, Percy Pancho of Bureau of Immigration and Deportation, Roy Gonzales of Bureau of Fishery and Aquatic Resources.
Earlier report said the vessel and its crew escaped from the Currimao port at early dawn of Jan. 17, 2015.

Owing to this, the Blanco Committee wanted to find out who gave the authority for the impounded vessel to leave the Currimao port despite the absence of port order.

Initial investigation showed that the vessel and its crew managed to escape as somebody allegedly cut off the rope that tied the boat to the port post.

Blanco said the Committee would make assessment, evaluation and recommendation report based on the consolidated findings submitted by the concerned government agencies especially the local offices of the Customs Bureau and Coast Guards here.

“On our part, we will also make our own recommendation report to our police regional director being the chairman of the Regional Committee on Illegal Entrants and also a furnish copy to the Office of Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos because she is personally following up the progress of this case,” the OIC PD told reporters.

He said the Committee would also recommend that the respective central offices of BOC and PCC should conduct further investigation to determine which agency is responsible for the lapses on the boat escape incident.

Blanco revealed that based on document, there is an existing Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between BOC and PCC which tasked these two agencies as partners in control of any questionable foreign sea crafts that dock here while these ships are placed under their custody pending ongoing investigation.

If I am not mistaken, the MOA existed since 2008, Blanco said. The MOA issue was raised during the conference by Prosecutor Calupig, who asked OC officer Camangeg if he was aware of this MOA.

The OIC PD said the BOC officer answered “no” while the PCC reasoned out that when vessel was seized, the Coast Guard was already hands off on the boat custody.

Blanco said the MOA should be fined tune to have a proper coordination between BOC and PCC on the situation like this.

If BOC lacks capability to handle the situation due to undermanned personnnel, it should coordinate with PCC to help address the problem as mandated by the MOA, Blanco stressed.
It may be recalled that the Taiwanese vessel docked off Currimao port last November 2014 after it allegedly eluded a storm while sailing en route to Vietnam.

When local authorities inspected the vessel shortly after it docked at the Currimao port, they found inside the boat volumes of assorted cigarettes of undetermined cash value. They also held its seven crew members.

BOC Camangeg said during yesterday’s conference that the vessel was negative of illegal drugs and explosives after it was 100% inspected by government raiding team using a K-9 dog. He added that the said vessel had already docked off Currimao port seven times. (tsg w/ reports from dzjc’s rolando jose dzea’s joel madamba, abs-cbn, gma and bombo)