The captain and crew of the Chinese boat that rammed and sank a Filipino fishing boat in the Recto Bank
and abandoned the 22 Filipino fishermen must apologize and pay for the damage they caused, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Wednesday.
At the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum, Lorenzana said he believed the June 9 incident was an accident, and that it had nothing to do with the Chinese government.
He also said he believed the boat that rammed the FB Gem-Vir, identified as the Yuemaobinyu 42212, was not part of the Chinese maritime militia because it had a boom for fishing.
He said naval experts had identified it as the kind of fishing boat that came from Hong Kong.
The Philippines is still waiting for a statement from China regarding the incident, Lorenzana said.
President Rodrigo Duterte, breaking his silence on the incident
after more than a week, called it “a little maritime accident” in a speech to the Philippine Navy.
China has expressed its sympathy for the 22 Filipino fishermen but insisted the incident was an accident. It also said the Chinese vessel fled because the crew was worried they would be besieged by other Filipino boats.
But former Ambassador Albert del Rosario cast doubt on the Chinese statement.
“I have learned by first-hand experience that China is not to be trusted and that their word is unreliable. When China makes a declaration, you can almost be sure that it is not consistent with what is happening on the ground,” the former Foreign Affairs secretary said in a statement.
“Years ago, as the highest Chinese official was promising to his US counterpart that there would be no militarization of the SCS, precisely the opposite was taking place.
“On Scarborough, an agreement in 2012 was brokered by the US regarding the withdrawal of ships by a certain time in order to break an impasse. We withdrew while China did not.
“China’s duplicity is now manifesting itself more closely to our people with the recent ramming of our fishing boat and the abandonment of our fishermen in the high seas. To avoid being pathetic, this was followed with two clumsy attempts to fabricate a believable explanation.”
He urged the government to take a stand against the Chinese and insist that the rule of law must be followed and respected.
“While we are cognizant of the imperative not to trigger an armed conflict, we believe that adherence to the rule of law is a profoundly pacifist way that we all should follow. Specifically, to accept that war is the only alternative to setting aside the arbitral decision is remarkably incredible and cannot be taken seriously in this modern world,” he said.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said the Agriculture department would give the fishermen involved in the sinking a P25,000 loan to help them recover their losses.
The financial aid is payable within three years with no collateral and no interest, he said.
With Piñol present in a press conference in Occidental Mindoro, boat captain Junel Insigne―wearing just a tank top and shorts ―also apologized to Duterte after his comments made it appear he ditched a supposed meeting with the President.
It was Piñol who asked to meet him and not Duterte, Insigne clarified but repeated that he backed out of the meeting because he was not feeling well.
The agency’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources would also provide the fishermen with 30-footer fiberglass boats with complete accessories.
At least 11 boats would be given and shared by the 22 fishermen.
The F/b Gem-Ver 1 would be repaired while the fishermen would get a sack of rice each from the Agriculture department.
Piñol said he sought the help of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. for additional funds to be used to buy ice-making machines and cold storage for all the fishing grounds.
The Palace on Wednesday said it must be rational rather than emotional in dealing with the collision.
In a statement, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo took exception to the remarks of Senator Joel Villanueva who said the executive department was in “a state of confusion” in its handling of the Recto Bank incident.
Panelo said those who could not understand Malacañang’s explanations could be “intellectually challenged.”
He repeated the Palace line that sovereignty was non-negotiable, even as the government soft-pedaled its reaction to the incident.
While initially expressing outrage over the abandonment of the Filipino fishermen, Panelo this week cast doubts on their account and said a thorough investigation would be required. He noted, for example, that among the fishermen, the cook’s account differed from the captain’s.
Panelo hit at “pseudo nationalists” who aggravated the issue by their “hysterical outcry.”
“Their pretended nationalism is calculated to trigger public fury and gain media mileage... As a government, however, it must be rational rather than emotional,” Panelo added.
At the same time, Panelo dismissed Senator Panfilo Lacson’s suggestion to tap the country’s mutual defense treaty with the United States as “reckless and premature.”
“Just to be honest with my friend Ping, but I think that is what we can call reckless and premature,” Panelo said on radio dzRH. “Why? Because there’s no act of aggression. We don’t even know yet what really happened there. Is it intentional or [an] accident?”
The Palace official said the United States will extend help to the country in case of an armed attack. “An act of aggression against the Philippines is an act of aggression against them. It hasn’t even happened yet,” he said.
Senator Richard J. Gordon said government officials except those from the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of National Defense should shut up as he warned that conflicting statements would not help the Philippine cause.
With too many officials speaking, especially if they are not in sync with one another, Gordon said this may only weaken the country’s position on the incident.
“Cabinet officials who are not part of the negotiations should refrain from speaking or making statements about the incident,” said Gordon.
“Let us leave the negotiations regarding the incident to the DFA, the DND and possibly the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG),” he said.
“lI think the President is already talking through the DFA, hence, the diplomatic protest.”
A party-list lawmaker on Wednesday said China, and not the Philippine government, should compensate for the damage that the Chinese fishermen caused.
“We support the call for reparations for the victims, and we demand that it be made automatic, as Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea are actually doing the country the priceless sense of
service and sacrifice,” Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao said.
The destroyed boat is estimated to value at P2 million, while their 3-metric ton catch was estimated at more than half a million pesos, Casilao said.
The sinking of the Filipino boat prompted Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio to call on the Filipino youth to continue defending the country’s sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea.
“Continue defending the West Philippine Sea because that is our duty. My generation laid the foundation by winning the arbitral ruling that the West Philippine Sea belongs to the Philippines,” said Carpio, after administering the oath of office of Kabataan Party-list Rep. Sarah Elago at the Dignitary’s Lounge of the Supreme Court.
“The next generation including your generation must build on this foundation so that our exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea will belong truly to the Filipinos and all the resources
there―the fish, oil, gas and other resources will be enjoyed exclusively by Filipino citizens including Reed Bank because that’s part of our EEZ,” said Carpio, who has been at the forefront of the country’s resolve to assert territorial rights over the WPS.
The senior magistrate had played a crucial role in the country’s victory in the arbitral tribunal that invalidated China’s excessive claims in the South China Sea.
In the landmark decision, the international court rejected China’s argument that it had sovereign and historic rights over the disputed region.
It also upheld the Philippines’ exclusive rights over the Scarborough Shoal, also called Panatag Shoal and Bajo de Masinloc, a group of rock formations found well within the Philippines’ 330-kilometer exclusive economic zone. With Maricel V. Cruz and Rey E. Requejo
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