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CG reports no survivors found in sea collision

Coast Guard authorities have seen no signs of life in the search for 14 people who went missing during a collision last weekend between a fishing boat and a Hong Kong cargo vessel off Occidental Mindoro south of Manila.

READ: At least 12 Filipinos missing in boat collision: media

HOLE IN THE BOW. A hole is prominent on the bow of the Chinese cargo vessel MV Vienna Wood after it collided with local fishing boat FV Liberty 5 off the coast of Mindoro island on Sunday. Philippine Coast Guard photos
But PCG commandant Vice Admiral George Ursabia Jr. told a news conference Tuesday their personnel remained hopeful they would find the missing persons.

“No signs of survivors and life. But we are hopeful, with the strong southwest monsoon, we are anticipating that some of them have reached the coast line of Mindoro,” he said, adding residents of Mindoro's coastal communities had been alerted.

Reacting to the incident, the Chinese Embassy in Manila said it was “shocked and saddened,” adding in a statement “This is a tragic incident. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the missing crew members and passengers. We sincerely hope all of them could be rescued at the earliest.”

The embassy said it was ready to render any necessary assistance to the concerned Philippine agencies conducting investigation into the cause of the incidents.

“During this difficult time, our top priority should be given to the rescue of missing crew members and passengers,” it said.

Pending the investigation, the embassy said, “we hope all parties refrain from politicalizing the issue and seeking narrow interests from such a humanitarian tragedy.”

The embassy also bewailed the revival by a few in the media of the fishing vessels' collision that happened on June 10, 2019 in the South China Sea.

“China has been working closely with the Philippine side to solve the case. The concerned Chinese fishing association has already offered a compensation proposal to the Philippine side and has been waiting for formal feedback from the latter,” the statement said.

“In the spirit of cooperation and friendship, we believe the incident will be solved in a proper manner,” it added.

At the same time, Ursabia said, citing due process which would have to be followed, the Hong Kong ship MV Vienna Wood might possibly be liable for civil and criminal liabilities since, according to reports reaching them the crew of the bigger ship did not even deploy rescue boats to help the fishing boat FV Liberty 5.

Meanwhile, in the Senate, Senator Risa Hontiveros asked: “Are we going to let another Chinese vessel get away with committing a 'hit and run' against Filipinos inside our territorial waters?”

She urged the Philippine government not to downplay the maritime collision between the Philippine fishing boat and the Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship, after Malacanang said the case was “banggaan lang (just a collision).”

Malacanang had said the incident would be resolved under Philippine maritime laws as it happened within the country's territorial waters.

Hontiveros said the priority of Philippine authorities “should be to find them (the 14), fully investigate, and not to further protect China’s interests.”

According to Ursubia, if the missing persons did not survive, their bodies would already be floating in three days.

The command center at the PCG National Headquarters received the distress signal from the cargo ship through an e-mail at 1:46 a.m. Sunday, three hours from the time of incident Saturday.

According to Ursabia, the damage on the front part of the MV Vienna, which is one of the most durable parts of a vessel, indicated the collision impact was strong.

Ursabia said the search and rescue operation could only last for three days. By Thursday, Ursabia said they would review if they would continue the operation.

Coast Guard team goes around to inspect the damage on the massive ship. Philippine Coast Guard photos
Hontiveros said: “We shouldn’t soft-pedal these incidents when we know this is not the first time that Chinese vessels have put Filipinos in danger,” referring to the sinking of Philippine fishing boat F/B Gem-Ver 1 by a Chinese vessel in June last year.

She urged the Philippine Coast Guard ‘to leave no water or land unchecked in their search, rescue, and investigation.' I appeal to the government to commit that we will be able to return these Filipino fishermen to their families as soon as possible.”

Hontiveros also said that the government should demand justice from China since the "hit and run" act of the Chinese ship, like the Gem-Ver 1 incident, was in stark violation of international law.

"The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and other similar treaties clearly mandate that after a collision, ships must render assistance to the other ship and its crew and passengers."

Topics: Vienna Wood , Philippine Coast Guard , Armando Balilo , Eduardo Gadiano , Harry Roque , Rodrigo Duterte , United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea , Risa Hontiveros
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