Unified by tragedy

by Mama Ranger Angelique M. Songco

BRP Melchora Aquino arrives in Puerto Princesa City with the 28 survivors of MG/Y Dream Keeper

The tragic sinking of MG/Y Dream Keeper in Tubbataha in the early hours of 30 April 2023 was staggering news to us all. We all still need to recover from this heavy loss and the sense of foreboding that it left behind.

But a positive lesson may be gleaned from this accident. Discovery Fleet Corporation’s M/Y Discovery Palawan, first on the scene, undaunted by zero visibility, howling winds, a thunderstorm, and pouring rain deployed all its resources to save the passengers and crew of the Dream Keeper. The management of Discovery Palawan sheltered, clothed, and fed the survivors. In a few moments, M/Y Almaroon Intrepid, P/Y Atlantis Azores, M/V Dolphin, M/Y Monsy, M/Y Palau Sport, S/Y Philippine Siren, M/Y Resolute, M/V Seadoors, M/V Solitude One, M/V Stella Mariz, and M/Y Zamerdius were either on the scene or within radio contact, all their crews primed to assist in search and rescue (SAR) efforts. WWF-Philippines’ research vessel, M/Y Navorca, and the marine park rangers on board two patrol boats also conducted SAR.

The Philippine Coast Guard vessel BRP Melchora Aquino (MRRV-9702) arrived as promptly as possible, relieving M/Y Discovery Palawan of its additional passengers.  The Philippine Navy vessel, PC375, arrived shortly to conduct SAR.  The Western Command and Philippine Air Force provided critical support. The US Indo-Pacific Command was first to conduct airborne SAR starting in the afternoon of 30 April and well into the night. It was flying over Tubbataha till past 10 pm.

Various agencies and private individuals assisting the survivors at Palawan Uno Hotel

Meanwhile, in Puerto Princesa, the survivors were met by the Department of Tourism, the Philippine Coast Guard, the Provincial Governor’s Office, the Provincial Tourism Office, the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, the Office of Civil Defense, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board through the TMO, the coordinators of M/Y Solitude One and M/Y Infinity, and the Chinese Embassy, a constellation of actors and agencies bound by a shared desire to ease the suffering of the survivors.

Surely, it was the mandate of these agencies to assist in these circumstances. But the instinctive and spontaneous response of numerous actors from different organizations was an inspiring testament to how organized our collective has become in terms of disaster response. 

Is it because the catastrophes and calamities that plague us give us a lot of practice? Or is it thanks to our increased funding for disaster relief?  I would like to believe it is because, above and beyond our differences and conflicts, we truly care for one another. Our shared empathy birthed a unified gathering of these kilometrically-named agencies and people who were merely doing their jobs—but also genuinely putting their hearts into saving others.