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22 Filipino crew in Recto Bank collision on their way home

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, June 14th, 2019

The 22 Filipino fishermen in the Recto Bank collision held a press briefing aboard a ship en route to Mindoro| Courtesy: Sec. Manny Piñol’s Facebook page

The 22 crew of the Filipino fishing boat that was allegedly hit by a Chinese ship near Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea are on their way home to San Jose, Occidental Mindoro.

They are expected to arrive in their hometown on Saturday, according to the report of UNTV News and Rescue correspondent Sherwin Culubong.

Although none sustained injuries, the crew will undergo medical checkup and debriefing upon their arrival in San Jose.

They will also be asked to give statements on what really happened at the Recto Bank (also called Reed Bank) on the night of June 9.

Defense Secretary Lorenzana on June 12 bared that a suspected Chinese fishing vessel hit and sank Filipino boat, F/B GIMVER 1.

READ: DND: Chinese vessel hit, sank PH vessel in Recto Bank

He denounced the actions of the alleged Chinese crew for leaving the scene and abandoning the Filipino crew at sea.

Lorenzana also expressed gratitude to a Vietnamese crew in the area who came to the aid of Filipinos.

The family of one of the Filipino fishermen also thanked the Vietnamese crew for their swift action.

“Malaki po ang pasasalamat namin, kahit hindi natin sila kaano [kalahi] pero tinulungan po sila,” said Maria Fe dela Torre, whose husband owns the boat that collided with the foreign vessel.

They also expressed hope that the Duterte government will seriously investigate the incident and give justice to the Filipino crewmen.

“Ang unang reaksyon namin nagulat, nataranta kami tapos galit kasi bakit di nila tinulungan tao namin? Nakita nila na lumulubog,” said May dela Torre, kin of one of the fishermen, when asked about their initial reaction upon learning about the incident.

“Kasi kung ‘di talaga nila sinasadya or aksidente talaga, kung tao sila, titigilan mo, tutulungan mo. Wala eh. Umalis sila eh. Iba ang nagrescue sa kanila,” she added.

Lorenzana earlier said that China has been informed about the incident and a probe has already been launched.

He also said they are now verifying if the fishing vessel that hit and sank the F/B GIMVER 1 belonged to China.

READ: DND: PH verifying if ship in West PH Sea collision belonged to China

Malacañang earlier called on Beijing to impose proper sanctions against the Chinese crewmen for their “uncivilized” and “outrageous” actions.

READ: PH wants China to sanction ship crew for sinking Filipino fishing boat

The Philippine government also said it is ready to sever its ties with China should it be proven that the Filipino fishing boat was intentionally hit.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin has assured that a diplomatic protest has been filed over the collision incident.

READ: Locsin files diplomatic protest vs China after West PH Sea collision

Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture assured to provide assistance to the Filipino fishermen and to their families.

“Puwede kaming tumulong na maipa-repair at temporarily mawalan ng hanapbuhay ‘yung mga mangingisda. Pwede naming tulungan, mayroon kaming mga loaning program for them,” said Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol.

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3 years after PH arbitral win vs. China: Duterte admin did nothing to enforce it —Carpio

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Friday, July 12th, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – July 12, 2019, marks the third anniversary of the Philippine’s arbitral win against China’s historical claims on the South China Sea, part of which is the West Philippine Sea.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration’s landmark ruling thus invalidated China’s so-called ‘Nine-Dash Line’ – the undefined demarcation line that encircles as much as 90 percent of the disputed waters in the area.

The Duterte administration downplayed the victory in hopes of building stronger ties with China and preferred to offer diplomacy rather than further escalating the tension by sending military troops to the disputed waters, even amid reports of harassment against Filipino fishermen and the Chinese destroying and exploiting the Philippines’ marine resources.

Maritime expert Jay Batongbacal expressed deep concern on the continuous deterioration and massive destruction of the marine environment in the West Philippine Sea.

“This has to stop and we have to get serious,” the Director of the University of the Philippines Institute of Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea appealed.

“And we’re not talking about going to war. We’re talking about simple things like stopping the destruction of a common pool resource that would benefit us all,” he added.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, meanwhile, acknowledge that war is not an option in the West Philippine Sea row as the Constitution forbids.

But Carpio blamed the Duterte administration’s inaction, accusing it of using such provision of the law to instill fear among Filipinos as if the Philippines has no other option but to obey with what China offers.

“This administration has done nothing whatsoever to enforce the arbitral award,” Carpio said.

 “I don’t see positive in the enforcement of the award,” he added.

The magistrate appealed to President Duterte not to formalize his verbal agreement with China’s Xi Jinping in his upcoming state of the nation address (SONA) that allows Chinese fishermen to fish within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the country in the WPS.

Carpio said, once Duterte formalizes the agreement, the Philippines would be bound and that would weaken the Arbitral ruling.

“If the President will confirm it in his SONA, I mean, we cannot get out of that anymore. So, we’re bound by that, we have to honor that. So, that means China can fish in an area 59 times larger than Scarborough Shoal,” Carpio argued.

Malacañang stressed that the President considers his agreement with Xi as legally binding, but Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. insisted that it cannot be executed because there is no written document to attest the deal.

For her part, former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales said the issue will still depend on how the President delivers the matter during his SONA.

She calls on Filipinos to stand for the country’s rights no matter what happens.

“Let us not be scared by all the propaganda that we hear. Because if we do, walang mangyayari (nothing will happen),” Morales said.

“Be brave,” she concluded. – with details from Harlene Delgado

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IBP wants time to talk with fishermen in West PH Sea Kalikasan petition

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, July 12th, 2019

A fisherman repairs his boat overlooking fishing boats that fish in the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, at Masinloc, Zambales, in the Philippines April 22, 2015. REUTERS/Erik De Castro/File Photo

MANILA, Philippines – The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) on Friday said it will request the Supreme Court (SC) for time to talk with Zambales and Palawan fishermen involved in a petition for the West Philippine Sea.

The IBP issued the statement days after the government claimed fishermen involved in the suit have disowned the petition.

Solicitor General Jose Calida on Tuesday said 19 of the fishermen who were named as petitioners backed out from the case, saying they had no knowledge of the writ of kalikasan suit seeking for the protection of the West Philippine sea.

A writ of kalikasan is a legal remedy available to persons or groups whose right to a balanced and healthy ecology is threatened or violated.

He added that apart from the 19 who allegedly recanted their statements, 13 of the total 37 petitioners did not sign their affidavits while 24 signed but had no identification.

Due to Calida’s claims, the oral arguments were suspended and Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin called for a closed-door meeting of the parties.

After the conference, Calida said the government and the petitioners’ lawyers agreed that the case be dismissed. Both the petitioners’ side and the Supreme court did not confirm Calida’s claim.

In a statement, the IBP said lawyers handling the case will seek time to confer with the fishermen.

“Considering the new allegations by the Office of the Solicitor General, the handling lawyers will request the Supreme Court for time to confer with the fishermen in Zambales and in Palawan so that they can more appropriately act on the developments in the case,” the IBP said in a statement signed by its president, Domingo Egon Cayosa.

“The IBP stands firmly with the fishermen, IBP chapters, and the lawyers involved in the petition for a writ of kalikasan filed before the Supreme Court,” it added.

The IBP also reiterated its advocacy for the “enforcement of environmental laws, protection of the rights and welfare of fisherfolks and securing the territory and patrimony of our country in the West Philippine Sea.”

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Fish production improves but corals are dying – BFAR

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Wednesday, July 10th, 2019

Bleached corals in Coron, Palawan

MANILA, Philippines – Data from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) reported improvements in fish production in the country as compared to the previous years.

In 2018, the country had 4.25 million metric tons of fish which was higher by one percent compared to 2017.

BFAR attributed this positive development to improvements in the country’s aquaculture which increased by three percent from the previous years when fish production was hugely affected by weather disturbances, illegal fishing, water pollution, and stricter implementation of the Fisheries Law.

The disputed waters in the West Philippine Sea contributes 2.34 percent of the country’s total production from provinces in Regions 1, 3, 4A and 4B.

Meanwhile, almost half of the production is contributed by Regions 9, 12 and the Bangsamoro Region, according to BFAR.

Despite this, the Bureau noted that from the 27 thousand hectares of coral areas in the country, only one percent are in good condition.

The agency added that the Philippine government loses P68.5-B every year because of illegal fishing.

Climate change also adds damage to the corals in a phenomenon called coral bleaching.

Sadly, according to BFAR, this phenomenon is expected to persist.

“We will see more coral bleaching. Ibig sabihin yung pagkakamatay ng mga corals dahil tumaas halimbawa yung water temperature o mas na-expose sila ngayon sa sun, (It means the corals are dying because of increasing water temperature as they are more exposed to the heat of the sun),” explained Sammy Malvas, BFAR’s assistant director for admin services.

 Likewise, the agency noted that even the size of fish is now affected.

“Example na lang iyong sardines, maliliit pa naging mature na, (Example sardines, they easily mature but their size remains small), Malvas added.

Doctor Deo Florence Onda of the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute said that the West Philippine Sea should all the more be protected because it has a vital role in the region considering that it is the center of biodiversity in the world.

“Isa lang indikasyon noon, kung maraming pumupuntang fishermen doon sa West Philippine Sea, ibig sabihin marami silang napapakinabangan at marami silang nakukuha, (It indicates one thing: More fishermen fish in West Philippines Sea because it is rich in resources and has a lot of fish), Onda said. – with reports from Rey Pelayo

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