DA-BFAR says Filipino fishing boat ‘rammed’; China says they were ‘besieged’

Marje Pelayo
(L-R) Crewmen of the sunken fishing vessel, F/B GEN-VER 1 reunited with their families; wreckage of F/B GEN-VER 1 after getting hit by a Chinese vessel at Recto Bank on June 9, 2019.

MANILA, Philippines – The Filipino fishing boat was ‘hit’ and ‘rammed’.

This was emphasized by the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) after numerous versions of the incident in Recto Bank surfaced over the weekend.

Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol answered questions on his social media account “to correct insinuations that the Filipino fishermen lied” about the incident.

“The captain and crew of the fishing boat stated from the very beginning that they were hit by a Chinese boat. The Chinese initially said it was not certain but later on admitted that the vessel involved in the “ramming” or collision incident was indeed a Chinese boat,” Piñol explained, referring to the question of whether it was indeed a Chinese vessel which hit F/B GEN-VER 1 of the Filipino fishermen.

Piñol also confirmed that the Filipino fishing boat indeed sank, to clear doubts after the vessel was shown sailing back to San Jose in Oriental Mindoro aided by the Philippine Navy.

“The captain and the crew said they had to jump into the water because their boat sank,” the Agriculture Secretary emphasized.

He posted a photo sent by BFAR Director Elizer Salilig which showed a sunken F/B GEN-VER 1 with its bow jutting out of the water.

“Rescuers later refloated the boat and repaired its damaged tailfin,” he added.

The captain of the Filipino boat in an interview said they were rescued by Vietnamese crewmen who were in the vicinity.

“Nagsenyasan kami. Sabi niya: ‘Vietnam, Philippines friends,'” kaya alam kong Vietnam,” Junel Insigne, the captain of the Filipino fishing boat said.

(We used sign language. He said: “Vietnam, Philippines friends,” that’s how I knew they were Vietnamese.)

On Friday, China’s Embassy in Manila admitted that it was a Chinese vessel that hit a Philippine boat at Recto Bank on Sunday (June 9).

However, China claimed that the Chinese vessel Yuemaobinyu 42212 was berthed at the vicinity when “suddenly besieged by 7 or 8 Filipino fishing boats.”

“During evacuation, 42212 failed to shun a Filipino fishing boat, and its steel cable on the lighting grid of larboard bumped into the Filipino pilothouse. The Filipino fishing boat tilted and its stern foundered,” the Embassy said in the statement.

“The Chinese captain tried to rescue the Filipino fishermen, but was afraid of being besieged by other Filipino fishing boats,” the statement read further.

The Embassy said that the Chinese crewmen decided to sail away after confirming that the fishermen from the Filipino boat were rescued by other Filipino fishing boats.

“The above shows that there is no such thing as “hit-and-run”, the Chinese Embassy said.

It added that China will continue to properly handle the issue with the Philippines “in a serious and responsible manner.”

“The two sides are maintaining close communication through diplomatic channels,” it added.

Amid the issues surrounding the incident, Secretary Piñol believes it is best to conduct an investigation on the matter.

“Whether it was an accidental collision or intentional ramming is an issue that is better resolved through the conduct of a maritime investigation,” he concluded.

Piñol said they already submitted the incident report to President Rodrigo Duterte. — with reports from Rosalie Coz

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