19 FROM MISSING BOATS RESCUED

Zamboanga City, Feb. 4, 2003 - At least 19 passengers and crewmen of a missing ferry were rescued Monday by a passing vessel on a small island off Mindanao, the Coast Guard said.

A small cargo boat ML Parhana-2 with six crew members is still missing after sailing Jan. 28 from Mapun island in the southernmost tip of Tawi-Tawi province, Philippine authorities said.

Lieutenant Commander Epifanio Navarro said a passing vessel rescued all eleven passengers and eight crewmen of the small ferry ML Rabla on Taha island near Tawi-Tawi. "They were found on the island of Taha and on their way to Zamboanga City," said Navarro.

The two boats have gone missing since Tuesday last week off the southern Philippines near Sabah, Malaysia. The first boat, the ML Rabla, was a small ferry with 19 people aboard which departed from the remote island of Taganak and bound for Tawi-Tawi.

The second boat, the ML Parhana-2, had a crew of six and a cargo of bananas, and left the island of Mapun on the same day. The Navy said both boats failed to arrive at their destination. "ML Parhana is still missing and the search for the crew and boat is going on," said Lt. Nancy Pastor, Navy spokesperson.

Pirates and rebels are also known to operate in the southern Philippines and they have previously attaced small boats and kidnapped passengers. Last year, Abu Sayyaf rebels attacked an Indonesian cargo boat near Jolo island and seized four of its crewmen, but one of them had escaped later. (Al Jacinto, PHNO Mindanao Bureau)


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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