By J. Jala | 06:40 PM February 24, 2021
Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) officer, Ensign Ralph Ofalla Barajan formally received the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea at the Department of Foreign Affairs, in Pasay City on Wednesday, February. 24, 2021.
Barajan, a native of Cortes, is the first Filipino to receive the IMO Award.
The IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea is an annual international recognition for individuals who performed acts of exceptional bravery, risking their own lives to ensure safety of life at sea. or to prevent or mitigate marine environmental damages.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the awarding ceremony for 2020 that was supposed to be held at the IMO Headquarters in London, United Kingdom was cancelled.
Present during the meeting were Assistant Secretary Igor G. Bailen and John Francis S. Herrera of the DFA – Maritime and Oceans Affairs Office, as well as Chief of Coast Guard Staff, Rear Admiral Rolando Lizor Punzalan.
On the morning of November 7, 2019, Barajan was alerted by the battering of big waves and screams from other passengers.
The cargo hold was quickly flooding, affecting the vessel’s stability. After calling the Coast Guard to request immediate assistance, Barajan, took charge of the situation and provided assistance and instructions to both passengers and crew members to grab life jackets, transfer to the other side of the ship and prepare for evacuation.
After he calmly but firmly persuaded the Captain to declare the “abandon ship” call, he assisted all passengers to jump off the vessel, making sure that no one was left behind. The Siargao Princess sank less than 10 minutes later.
While floating on the water, Barajan tied the life jackets of passengers and crew members in groups for their own safety, and to facilitate the search and rescue operations by the Coast Guard, who arrived more than an hour later.
His courage and decisiveness ensured the survival of all 62 lives onboard, as well as contributing to the successful rescue by the Philippines Coast Guard.
He was nominated by the Philippines for his leadership and determination, even while he was off duty.