KUALA LUMPUR, July 8 (Bernama) -- The Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) and the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) today received the Tie of the Order of Civil Merit award, conferred by Spanish King Felipe VI, for their efforts during a search and rescue mission for two Spanish nationals missing in Sabah waters in 2016.
Spain's Ambassador to Malaysia Jose Miguel Corvinos Lafuente presented the decorations to Admiral Datuk Mohd Reza Mohd Sany, who represented the RMN, and Director-General of MMEA Datuk Seri Zulkifli Abu Bakar, at a special ceremony held at the former's residence here.
"Today we pay tribute to the high professionalism of both institutions, and we thank you as well for your cooperation with Spain and with this Embassy,” said Corvinos.
The Order of the Civil Merit was established by King Alfonso XIII in 1926 with the purpose of showing gratitude and recognition towards individuals or organisations who have outstandingly contributed to render a relevant service to Spain.
Meanwhile, speaking to reporters after the ceremony, Mohd Reza thanked King Felipe VI and the Spanish government for their recognition.
“We received the award on behalf of those who participated in the search and rescue mission,(and) we thank Spain for the award,” he said.
He said that although at-sea search and rescue missions were usually limited to three days, it was extended to 10 days upon the request made by the Spanish Ambassador.
On May 12, 2016, Spanish couple David Hernandez Gasulla and wife Martha Miguel, both, 30, together with a resort owner Tommy Lam Wai Yin, 44 and his employee Armella Ali Hassan, 23, were successfully rescued after their boat was reportedly capsized in the treacherous waters off Kudat, Sabah.
They went missing on May 2 while on a two-hour boat ride from Pulau Balambangan, and were supposed to have arrived at Tanjung Simpang Mengayau at 8 pm on the same day but had failed to do so.
The RMN and MMEA later began a search and rescue operation on May 3.
All the victims were rescued and found safe in a boat owned by Vietnamese fishermen in the waters of Amboyna Cay near the Vietnam-Malaysia border, about 240 nautical miles from Kudat.
They were later transferred from the Vietnamese fishing boat onto MMEA's vessel before being transported to Kota Kinabalu via a Bombardier aircraft on May 13.