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Jun 16, 2019 / 19:18

Philippine navy affirms its fishermen rescued by Vietnamese, reports case to IMO

A Philippine navy official said it was the Chinese’s disregard for the safety of the 22 Filipino fishermen that made the incident doubly reprehensible.

The Philippines has reported the China-caused boat sinking to the UN’s International Maritime Organization (IMO) to call for a premium on protecting life at sea in case of maritime distress, according to the Philstar. 
First batch of Filipino fishermen rescued after they were rammed by a Chinese vessel/ Damaged F/B Gemver. Photo: The Philippine Navy
First batch of Filipino fishermen rescued after they were rammed by a Chinese vessel/ Damaged F/B Gemver. Photo: The Philippine Navy
The Filipino fishermen were “callously abandoned to the elements on the rough seas” by Chinese mariners who rammed and sank their vessel last week.

On June 9, Chinese ship Yuemaobinyu 42212 hit and rammed Filipino ship F/B Gemver with 22 crew members aboard at night and ran away in Reed Bank or Recto Bank (11°20′N 116°50′E) in the South China Sea’s Spratly Islands. 

On June 14, the Chinese embassy in Manila confirmed that the vessel that sank the Filipino fishing boat was indeed Chinese, but that its crew had to abandon efforts to rescue the beleaguered fishermen after getting “besieged” by seven to eight other Filipino boats.

Filipino Navy Spokesman Capt. Jonathan Zata said: “It’s the Vietnamese fishing vessel that rescued our fishermen and not a Filipino fishing boat. There was no Filipino vessel in the area at the incident. Had there been any Filipino vessel around, the incident could have been immediately reported to the Navy and we could have responded immediately. But there’s none.” 

Meanwhile, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Spokesman Capt. Armand Balilo said the PCG would coordinate with the Vietnamese Coast Guard so it could thank and get a statement from the Vietnamese fishermen who rescued the Filipinos. “Maybe they were able to observe something at the area, if they noticed a vessel passing by,” Balilo said.

Survivor raised voices

Filipino fishermen on day after being rescued. Photo: ABS-CBN News
Filipino fishermen on day after being rescued. Photo: ABS-CBN News
Filipino boat captain Junel Insigne said the Chinese fishing vessel, identified by Chinese authorities as Yuemaobinyu 42212, saw that the boat was sinking and the fishermen were floating in the water, according to ABC-CBN News. 

Instead of rescuing the distressed fishermen, the Chinese fishing vessel maneuvered in reverse and rushed off, Insigne recalled. 

“I thought they were going to help us, but they abandoned us instead,” he said. 

Insigne asked Gordiones and Justine Pascual to row a small banca to ask for help from another vessel. It took the pair some 2 hours to reach the vessel, which they later found out to be manned by the Vietnamese. Gordiones and Pascual gestured that they had crewmates stuck at sea. The Vietnamese then came to aid the Filipino crew, rescued them and later gave them food.

“They allowed us on their vessel. They fed us, let us rest, gave us water. They are the ones who helped us,” Insigne said.

Asked how he knew of their nationality, Insigne said: “Sabi niya, 'Vietnam? Philippines? Friends.' Kaya alam kong Vietnam.” (“Vietnam? Philippines? Friends.” That's why I knew they were from Vietnam.)

Manila makes stronger protests 

Sen. Risa Hontiveros branded as “preposterous” the Chinese embassy’s claim that the Chinese vessel was “besieged” by Filipino fishing boats, and urged the Duterte administration to downgrade the country’s diplomatic relations with Beijing, the Philstar reported.

It’s the Chinese, she said, who have long been encroaching on Philippine waters and harassing Filipino fishermen.

Chinese ships have also been ramming, firing water cannons at and sinking Vietnamese vessels in the Paracels for several years now, she pointed out.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, meanwhile, said the boat ramming incident is a test of both patience and respect. Respect on the part of the Chinese government toward a supposed ally, the Philippines and patience, on the part of Filipinos, Lacson said in an interview over dwIZ, according to the Philstar.