In this photo taken by WESCOM, Vietnamese fishermen are shown being helped to find temporary shelter in Melville, Balabac.

Approximately 17 Vietnamese fishermen are currently taking refuge in Brgy. Melville in Balabac following their rescue from a cargo ship that ran aground in waters close to the island town on Tuesday due to adverse weather conditions.

Extended humanitarian and immigration assistance by the personnel of the armed forces’ Littoral Monitoring Station (LMS) in Melville and local government of Balabac were Dang Van Minh (ship captain), Le Phu Tri, Truong Ngoc Dieu, Pham Van Chung, Nguyen Tat Minh, Nguyen Van Truong, Tran Van Ba, Truong Van Trung, Nguyen Van Luan, Bui Nguyen Thanh, Nguyen Van Tuan, Pham Van Loi, Bui Ngoc Long, Tran Van Ngoc, Phan Hai Duong, Nguyen Van Canh, and Pham The Hung.

They were the crew of the Vietnamese cargo vessel Dolphin 15, according to a statement released by the Western Command (WESCOM) on Tuesday night.

Their cargo ship was set to return to Ho Chi Minh in the southeast region of Vietnam from their most recent port call in Tacloban. As they passed through the Balabac area, they encountered inclement weather, which caused their cargo ship to run aground.

WESCOM reported that the cargo ship was first spotted around four nautical miles east southeast of LMS Melville on December 21. The cargo ship responded to a radio challenge from the monitoring station by stating that it was returning to Vietnam.

However, later that day, around evening, it radioed LMS Melville, requesting to take shelter and anchor 2.1 nautical miles southwest due to worsening sea conditions, which it granted.

On December 26, the LMS Melville radioed the Vietnamese vessel to inquire about its condition. The latter responded that they repositioned their vessel because their anchor was being dragged by strong winds and currents.

WESCOM also said that LMS Melville observed that Dolphin 15 had repositioned at it said, but was already close to a shallow portion. Upon inquiry, the cargo vessel responded that it is awaiting the arrival of their sister ship Victoria 19 for towing operation and that all crew onboard are safe and well.

“On December 27, M/V Dolphin 15 informed LMS Melville that they intend to temporarily abandon their vessel as a safety precaution due to the possibility that the ship might be tilted. They requested for the availability of a sheltering area for their crew while waiting for the arrival of M/V Victoria 19,” Vice Adm. Alberto Carlos said in the statement. 

“As a good neighbor, the Philippine station accommodated, and provided shelter and food to the 17 crew. Likewise, they were given medical and immigration assistance through the local government of Balabac,” it added.

As of this writing, the M/V Victoria 19 is already anchored around a nautical mile northwest of Matangule Island, Balabac. All 17 Vietnamese fishermen are safe on land in Melville.

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has been with Palawan News since January 2019. She is its managing editor, overseeing and coordinating day-to-day editorial activities. Her writing interests are politics and governance, health, defense, investigative journalism, civic journalism, and the environment.