The body of the missing 64-year-old Aeta chieftain, Ernesto Coching, has been found three days after he failed to return from a fishing trip that ended in a collision between his motorized boat and a hotel speed boat in Boracay.
Coching’s body was retrieved off the waters of Malay, Aklan near Sitio Airport, Barangay Caticlan, according to the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG). His companion, Ricky Valencia, survived the collision but was hospitalized.
The hotel boat, a DIWATA 4-speed boat owned by Shangri-La Boracay, hit Coching’s boat late on Wednesday night, sinking it. Following the incident, the skipper of the DIWATA 4 speedboat has been detained at the Malay Municipal Police Detention Facility. Shangri-La Boracay has yet to issue a statement and vowed to extend support to the relatives of the victims.
The retrieval operation involved over 35 volunteer divers, including foreign divers, who dived 15 to 25 meters under water covering 250,000 square meters to search for Coching's body, following DILG Secretary Benhur Abalo’s call to join the rescue operations. Members of the Philippine National Police Maritime Group, the Philippine Coast Guard, and local authorities from the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council also joined the search and rescue operation.
An aerial search was also carried out by the Office of Civil Defense Western Visayas over portions of the Sibuyan Sea and Sulu Sea.
Valencia, who recounted the ordeal to Abalos, said that the collision took place at 9 p.m. on their way back to shore. The captain of the Shangri-la boat only "temporarily stopped" to check what happened before speeding away, according to Valencia. Shangri-La Boracay has yet to issue a statement on the matter.
The incident has raised concerns about safety protocols and regulations on water transportation, including recreational and water sports offered by hotels and resorts around the area. The local authorities have yet to release an official statement regarding the incident.