Ralph Barajan, a hero coast guard officer
Almost every time a sea tragedy happens, the Philippine Coast Guard is lambasted by different criticisms because of its lapses that directly or contributively cause the mishap.
The latest sea accident however is a totally different story. All the praises is focused on a hero coast guard officer who saved the lives of all the passengers that consequently put in the limelight the whole agency, the Philippine Coast Guard.
Ralph Barajan was promoted from Petty Officer 3rd class to 2nd class and was given the second highest heroism award, the Medal of Distinguished Conduct. This was highlighted during the 52nd Founding Anniversary of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in Central Visayas this week.
According to PCG-7 Commodore Ronnie Gil Gavan, his office is also processing important documents so that Barajan can also receive the Medal of Valor. Also Michael Dino, Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas, gave him cash incentives for his heroic acts.
With this, Barajan gives a good image to the agency. In fact Commodore William Isaga said that he felt very happy that there was a coast guard inside the unfortunate ship. He added that such incident made him proud to be a coast guard.
To recall, Barajan, who was an off-duty at that time, November 7, boarded the fast craft MV Siargao Princess that plies the route from Loon, Bohol to Sibonga, Cebu and vice-versa. With him were the 55 passengers and 7 crews members.
When the vessel was floating between the deep blue sea of Bohol and Cebu, it encountered an unfortunate accident. The vessel was damaged for unknown reasons that led the water to enter the boat. The passengers and crews were in panic mode at that time.
As per testimonies of the passengers, Barajan took the lead and command inside the vessel when he noticed that the crew members were also very busy finding ways to save themselves. He invoked that he is a person in authority, a coast guard.
He ordered the passengers to be calm. He instructed them where to get the life jackets and demonstrated how to use them. He also instructed the passengers to tie up all the life saving supports so that they will be united when they would be in the water while waiting for the rescue team.
He instructed everybody on how to jump off to the water safely. He instructed everyone on giving priority to senior citizens and children. He was the last to abandon ship. All of the 62 passengers and crew members were saved from that accident.
While the “hero” coast guard is on everyone’s eyes, the PCG should also conduct a marine inquiry on the matter to know what really happened to the vessel. Did it pass the test of sea worthiness? Is the vessel made of fiber glass like the one that sunk fast craft as reported, safe to transport the general public?
What about the crew members? Did they undergo proper trainings? Why were they in panic mode like the ordinary passengers? Why did they not assist the passengers?
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