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Contact reestablished with 7 missing divers

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Friday said it has re-established contact with seven people who have been adrift at sea since Thursday morning when their motorized-boat encountered engine trouble off Antique near Boracay Island.

In an interview, Lt. Cmdr. Juan Manuel Ramos, head of the PCG unit in Caticlan, Aklan, said authorities were able to contact the group through cellular phone and have determined their position.

Ramos said the group – which includes three Spanish divers and four Filipino tour guides – are now in the vicinity of Cuyo, Palawan, and both aerial and naval units have been dispatched to rescue the group.

Ramos identified those stranded as Jaime Blanche, Carlos Blanche, and Tito Solan – all Spaniards. With them are Bernardo Sedantes, Butch Sedantes, Boy Sedantes, and Ricardo Gidalgos.

On Thursday, the PCG said it received a cellphone call around 6:30 a.m. from one of the victims asking for assistance after their boat went dead in the water while on their way to Boracay.

The victims’ boat, MB Maruja, encountered engine trouble and drifted southeast of Sibay Island in Caluyan, Antique. The group had just come from diving sites in Caluyan and was on the way back to Boracay when the incident occurred, the PCG said.

After receiving the report, the PCG dispatched search-and-rescue teams. But they failed to locate the group which had since drifted from their reported position.

By 6 p.m. Thursday, the PCG temporarily halted its rescue operations due to poor visibility.

This has been yet another tragedy for the diving industry in the Philippines where standards with sea ferrying vessels are not maintained.

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