Western Command (WESCOM) and its operation-controlled units have sent their air and naval assets to Balabac to help find the “Yellow Bee” air ambulance of Philippine Adventist Medical Mission Aviation Services (PAMAS), which went missing yesterday east of the island town.

Tactical Operations Wing-West (TOW-West) dispatched a Philippine Air Force (PAF) Socol chopper shortly before 8 a.m. today, March 2, to assist Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) personnel in the SAR operations. The Naval Forces West (NAVFORWEST) has also dispatched the BRP Jose Rizal (FF150) to join the mission.

WESCOM spokesperson Commander Ariel Coloma said that two more Philippine Navy gunboats (PC 375 and PC 395) were dispatched to help in the search efforts, while another vessel was diverted from Tawi-Tawi province by the naval frigate to also bolster the operation.

He said WESCOM chief Vice Adm. Alberto Carlos has issued an order to make sure that all resources and methods available are used to “contribute in helping the victims and their families and find evidence that will piece together what happened to them and the PAMAS helicopter.”

The most recent update occurred when coast guard personnel discovered remnants of what is thought to be a canister of a fire extinguisher commonly used in aircraft in the waters near where the chopper was last located.

PCG District Palawan Commander Capt. Dennis Rem Labay said the debris were found by personnel aboard BRP Malabrigo (MRRV 4402), which departed from the city late afternoon Wednesday, March 1, to assist in the SAR operations

Labay further stated that after the chopper was reported missing, coast guard personnel from Brooke’s Point and Balabac immediately conducted SAR, which in less than 24 hours have already covered more or less 10 nautical miles from the point of last contact of the chopper.

He also stated that the SAR activities would last three to five days, after which the mission would move to search and retrieval if no debris or survivors were found.

“Yung first three to five days kasi ang very cruicial and after that, without any evidence of a debris or survivor, we will lessen our efforts and shift to search and retrieval,” Labay explained.