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Captain frets over Rody’s quip

The captain of the Philippine fishing boat that was rammed and sunk by a Chinese vessel in Recto Bank said Tuesday he was saddened by President Rodrigo Duterte’s description of the incident as “a little maritime accident.”

RISING TENSION. Filipino protesters led by Defend Job Philippines burn Tuesday 22 mock flags of China during a protest rally at the country’s Kilometer 0 at Manila’s Luneta Park, condemning in the process the incident near Recto Bank where a Chinese vessel was reported by Filipino fishermen to have rammed their fishing boat on June 9. Lino Santos
“It’s sad what the President said because it was like he was dismissing what happened to us because nobody died,” Jonel Insigne said in Filipino in an interview on radio dzBB. “Will they wait for one of us to die?”

The Chinese vessel abandoned Insigne and his 21 companions on the FB Gemvir in open water, where they were rescued three hours later by a Vietnamese vessel.

In a speech Monday night, or more than a week after the June 9 incident, Duterte described the collision as a “little maritime accident” and told the Philippine Navy to “stay out of trouble.”

President Panfilo Lacson expressed dismay at the President’s words.

“The President broke his silence and left us heartbroken,” Lacson said.

“He forgot to explore all resources available before exercising his last option of surrender. The MDT is one yet untapped weapon,” said Lacson while referring to the Mutual Defense Treaty between the Philippines and the United States.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana condemned the incident when he first reported it to the public last week.

“We denounce the actions of the Chinese fishing vessel for immediately leaving the incident scene [and] abandoning the 22 Filipino crewmen to the mercy of the elements,” he said.

“We condemn in the strongest terms the cowardly action of the Chinese fishing vessel and its crew for abandoning the Filipino crew. This is not the expected action from a responsible and friendly people,” he added.

Lacson noted that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said only recently that the US and the Philippines have an obligation under the MDT to respond accordingly if a vessel belonging to either party, military or civilian, is attacked in the West Philippine Sea.

“As I said in my tweet, I am not praying for World War III, but at least a strong presence of the US Pacific Fleet in the WPS can make China feel the balance of power in that area,” he said.

Opposition Senator Francis Pangilinan criticized the government’s response to the ramming and sinking of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese fishing vessel, saying it would take the side of the powerful foreign power over small and powerless Filipino fishermen.

“Am I hearing our government or are they representatives or agents of China?” he said.

Whether the ramming was intentional or accidental, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said what is clear is that the Chinese crew abandoned the Filipino fishermen in distress at sea.

He said this violates China’s obligation under the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea) to rescue those in distress at sea. “This is the issue that should be addressed and the basis of China’s liability under international law and the UNCLOS,” he said.

He also dismissed as “baloney” and an “outright and malicious lie” China’s claim that the Chinese boat left after sinking the Filipino vessel for fear of being besieged by other Filipino boats in the area.

MARINE DISASTER. (From left) Moderator and Kamuning Bakery owner Wilson Lee Flores, former Ambassador to China Alberto Encomienda and George Sy of the Integrated Development Studies Institute discuss Tuesday the recent collision incident involving a Filipino fishing boat and a Chinese vessel during a forum at the Kamuning Bakery in Quezon City. Manny Palmero
“If there were indeed Philippine fishing boats in the vicinity, why did it take a Vietnamese vessel to rescue the 22 Filipinos in distress?” Drilon said.

“And, per testimony of the Filipino crew, the Chinese boat even came back, without hesitation, with bright strong lights, to check on the Philippine boat, presumably to find out if enough damage was inflicted, and not to rescue the Filipino crew,” he added.

Senator Risa Hontiveros also blasted Duterte for suggesting during a speech to the Philippine Navy that the country needed “another Marcos”—referring to the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos—if it wanted to rid the country of corruption.

“The President’s ramblings are becoming more incoherent, much like his policy towards China,” Hontiveros said.

“Another Marcos to solve corruption? Marcos was the paragon of corruption!” she added.

On Tuesday, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo suggested the Filipino fishing boat was not well lit when it was hit by the Chinese vessel.

He said the boat’s cook, who was the only one awake at the time, said the Chinese might not have seen their boat.

He also said initial investigation showed the Filipino boat was not anchored near the shoreline.

“When you anchor a ship or a vessel, it should be near the land. But it seems now that they were not along the shoreline or near the shore. They were in the middle of the sea,” he said.

Panelo also said there had been 19 other Filipino-owned boats in the area, seeming supporting the Chinese account that the Chinese vessel feared they were being besieged.

He also cited inconsistencies in the accounts of the captain and the cook.

“We’re not doubting them, but we’re saying that these new circumstances are factors that will raise doubts. It seems like there is a conflict between the captain and the cook. The captain thinks it was intentional, while the cook says perhaps the boat was not seen,” he said.

“Regardless of what happened there, we condemn the act of abandoning our seamen [and] crew,” Panelo added.

READ: Rody weighs in on ‘accident’

READ: PH, China told: ‘Hold your fire’

READ: Boat ramming: PH outraged

READ: PH, China trade barbs

READ: Chinese boat sinks PH vessel, 22 Pinoys rescued

Topics: Rodrigo Duterte , Recto Bank , Salvador Panelo , Jonel Insigne , Panfilo Lacson , Vessel , Maritime accident
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