CEBU CITY – The Presidential Assistant for the Visayas and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) commended a coast guard personnel for his heroism during the sinking of MV Siargao Princess last November 7 off Sibonga town.
“To the brave man who helped save the passengers of the MV Siargao Princess, Seaman First Class Ralph Barajan, Daghang Salamat! You proved to us that living heroes exist even in this modern world where unexpected events happen,” Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Secretary Michael Lloyd Dino said in a statement sent to the Philippine News Agency (PNA).
Dino described Barajan as “a role model to all our uniformed men” for his bravery in making himself available to the passengers and for doing his job “even during his rest day”.
“I commend you for your act of bravery and for your ‘malasakit’ (concern) towards your fellow Filipinos. I am looking forward to meet you to personally congratulate and thank you for your dedicated service. I would also like to commend the Coast Guard District Central Visayas for your quick response and in making sure that all will be saved,” he added.
Lt. Junior Grade Michael John Encina, spokesperson of PCG in Central Visayas, said the PCG higher command is now working on the commendation for Petty Officer 3 Ralph Barajan because of his heroic acts during the sinking of the passenger vessel.
“That is what the higher command of Philippine Coast Guard is working out now, ayaw ko lang po pangunahan, kung ano pong award na ibibigay po sa kanya (I won’t preempt what kind of award they would bestow to him), but definitely he will be recognized po sa kanyang (for his) heroic act,” Encina told the PNA in an interview over the weekend.
Encina described how proud the entire PCG organization for Barajan is, adding that he has given them good image.
“Very proud kami sa (We are very proud here in) Central Visayas, the whole coast guard community, because it is the first time in history na may isang kasamahan tayo sa coast guard na naging daan para lahat ng pasahero nung isang ill-fated vessel is ma-rescue, kasi kung wala po sya, malamang sa malamang and din naman po sana, posibleng may ibang mangyari (that we have a colleague in coast guard who directed the passengers of the ill-fated vessel the way until rescued, because if he was not there, most probably, God forbid, something will really happen),” Encina added.
Barajan, who hails from Bohol, was off-duty and among of the passengers when the incident occurred. He was then about to go back to his assigned PCG station in Oslob in southern Cebu.
Barajan led efforts to save the passengers and crew of the distressed vessel.
Encina said the rescue of all the 53 passengers and nine (not seven as earlier reported) crew members was a joint effort between Barajan and the personnel of other agencies and local government units.
“Andun din yung barko natin, yung sa LGUs, PNP Maritime and other agencies, para mag-successful ang rescue operation. Barajan was the key factor para ma-execute natin ng maayos, ma-secure yung mga pasahero natin, maahon sila sa pagpalubog na barko (Our PCG vessel was there, also the local government units, the PNP Maritime and other agencies for the successful operation. Barajan was the key factor so that we can execute properly in securing our passengers and they can be rescued from the sunken vessel),” he said.
Meanwhile, the PCG-7 is still waiting for the marine protest (a notarized statement after a rough voyage) to be filed by Antonio Conag, the captain of MV Siargao Princess, so that the Maritime inquiry task group formed to probe the incident can start with the investigation.
Encina told the PNA that the operator of the vessel shouldered all the expenses for hospitalization of the passengers who suffered minor injuries.
The investigator, he said, will look into the circumstances of the incident and the cause of the sinking ship despite the absence of gale warning from the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration. (PNA)