Pinol joins fishermen in denouncing being abandoned by Chinese
Agriculture Secretary Manny Pinol on Wednesday said he joins the 22 fishermen abandoned by a Chinese fishing vessel in Recto Bank in condemning the act whether the ramming of their ship is intentional or not.
In a press briefing in Occidental Mindoro, speaking for the crew of F/B Gem-Ver 1, Pinol said the fishermen are asking President Rodrigo Duterte to make the captain of the Chinese fishing vessel accountable for leaving them and to make Recto Bank- which is inside the Philippines Exclusive Economic Zone- exclusive for them.
“I join them in saying this: we denounce the act of the Chinese vessel in abandoning the fishermen in distress regardless of whether it was accidental or intentional. There is no justification to the act of the Chinese vessel to abandon the Filipino fishermen who were already in distressed. Under international maritime laws, that is illegal. Under human laws, that is immoral,” Pinol said.
“And so they asked me to relay to the president their emotional and ardent reaction to make a presentation with the Chinese government so that the skipper or the captain and the crew members of the Chinese vessel which figured in that maritime incident will be held accountable, liable criminally, because of that act of abandoning them,” he added.
Pinol said the fishermen wants their traditional fishing grounds to be their own and the government should help them secure the area.
“During the meeting, they came up with a position. One, they cannot determine if it’s (collision) intentional or accidental,” he said, citing the cook of the ship which claimed the Chinese vessel may not have seen them during the incident.
“But based on other crew, it’s possible that it’s intentional,” he added.
Pinol said the incident is best resolved by a maritime inquiry and his visit to the province is for him to know what the fishermen need.
He said he got their side of the story so he will have a clear perspective of the incident and can make proper action.
“Their (fishermen) suggestion, they are asking a thorough investigation of the incident to find out not only from their side but on the side of the Chinese fishing vessel for the truth to find out,” said Pinol.’
Pinol said it was he who invited the owner of the boat, the cook and the captain in which the captain failed to attend because he got sick suddenly. .
“BFAR (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources) is actually the one who invited them upon my instruction… There was never an invitation for them from Malacanang, It was I (as) the secretary of agriculture who wanted to talk to them and they came,” said Pinol.
Because of this misunderstanding, the captain of the boat apologized to the president.
“I want to apologize to our president and I hope that the captain of the boat who rammed us will be accountable. That is my wish to the president,” the captain said.
However, the captain suddenly retracted to his earlier statement that the incident was “intentional” saying he was mad after they were abandoned.
Pinol said the fishermen were not certain if the collision was intentional.
'''So my view is that the proper thing to do is to conduct impartial maritime inquiry so the truth will come up… if they were really rammed, I will be the first to fight for it,'' he said.
''Since (it was) established that they were abandoned, I’m condemning this as secretary of agriculture. I’m condemning that act that they were abandoned because that is established whether intentional or accident,'' said Pinol.
Pinol said this is ''beside the point, the truth remains that they were abandon by the vessel that figured in the incident and that is a serious issue.''
On the claim that the Filipino fishing vessel did not sunk, Pinol said the picture posted on his Facebook page was not fake.
According to the captain, after they were rammed the Chinese vessel turned on their flashlight but when they asked for help it suddenly turned it off.
The Chinese ship sailed away, leaving them in distress and their boat half submerged.
Two crewmen paddled for two hours and returned to the scene of the incident at about 3 am onboard a Vietnamese ship which rescued them.
The next day, June 10, two Filipino fishing boats arrived and helped refloating their boat by using 30 pieces of empty drums.
Pinol said the presence of the Vietnamese vessel in Recto Bank is also illegal but he thanked them for helping the Filipinos.
“Thank you for the Vietnamese (crew) for helping but you were not supposed to be there but thanked god you were there… In fact, during the cabinet cluster meeting, we agreed that we should thank the Vietnamese vessel for aiding our fishermen,” he said.
Pinol said the military only has 16 ships and only two can be used in guarding the Recto Bank.
He said his visit to provide assistance to the fishermen shows the compassion of President Rodrigo Duterte to help them.
Pinol said that giving assistance doesn’t mean that they want to calm the fishermen. Under their existing program, the Department of Agriculture give 11 boats, one each per two families, to the 22 crews of the GEM-VER 1 and a loan.
“An emergency loan which also an institutional program. It’s a survival, recovery loaning program. No collateral, no interest, (and) three years to pay. P25,000 per fishermen,” he added.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development gave them P10,000 and another P10,000 from the Office of the Cabinet Officer for Regional development and security.
A sack of rice per fishermen was also given along with a commitment of livelihood assistance, added Pinol.
As the designated chair to assist the fishermen, Pinol also tapped the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) for additional funding in helping the owner.
On the latest statement of Duterte, Pinol said the fishermen were not belittling it but they also don’t want to overblown the incident.
“A maritime incident is a maritime incident. Let’s not belittle this incident but on the same time, let us not overblow this incident to the point that we are already invoking the Mutual Defense Treaty. Let’s be calm, let’s look at this incident with a level-headed perspective,” he said.
“He (Duterte) is not belittling (the incident) but what he is saying is we should not overreact. That’s the context of his message,” he added.
The 22 fishermen were abandoned after their ship collided with a Chinese vessel in Recto Bank last June 9. The incident was reported by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on June 12.
Malacanang condemned the act but said Duterte will only decide what policy he will take once he has the final investigation report.
In his speech last Monday, Duterte called the incident a “maritime incident” and told the public to wait and hear the side of the Chinese government. Ella Dionisio/DMS