22 Filipino crew in Recto Bank collision on their way home

Robie de Guzman   •   June 14, 2019   •   2355

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.

Duterte lifts moratorium on oil exploration in West Philippine Sea

Marje Pelayo   •   October 16, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has lifted the moratorium or the suspension of oil exploration in the West Philippine Sea upon the recommendation of the Department of Energy (DOE).

Following the lifting of moratorium, the DOE will resume issuance of work notice to authorized service contractors within the area covered by the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

According to Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, the resumption of oil exploration in the area will provide the Philippines additional source of oil fuel to ensure energy security in the country.

One expected benefit is the increase in natural gas reserve of the Malampaya Power Plant.

“It gives hope to the Filipino people that eventually, we will have that energy independence and energy security and a more affordable energy,” Cusi said.

The agency hopes such development will generate more jobs during the pandemic especially to residents near the disputed territories through the entry of foreign investors.

The DOE expressed confidence that the said decision will not affect the relationship between the Philippines in China despite the signed memorandum of understanding for oil and gas development cooperation in the disputed territories.

“It’s done in good faith because alam naman natin na meron tayong MOU na pinirmahan [because we know that we have an existing MOU signed] together with China saying it was in good faith,” Cusi explained.

“Because it does not affect that MOU, it does not stop the joint development activities that we might arrive at with China,” he added.

The oil exploration in West Philippines Sea was halted in 2015 due to the increasing tension among claimant states in the disputed territories. MNP (with reports from Joan Nano)

AFP to beef up monitoring amid ‘volatile’ situation in West Philippine Sea

Robie de Guzman   •   October 14, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will intensify its monitoring in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) amid “volatile and uncertain” situation there.

AFP chief of staff General Gilbert Gapay said they will deploy a Japanese-made radar at the the Matinloc gas platform in Malampaya, Palawan which is near the WPS.

“You see, we [decided that] the Matinloc platform [will] be assigned one of the radars coming from Japan to beef up our monitoring capability in the West Philippine Sea,” he said.

Gapay said they are also eyeing to partner with Japan to develop the military’s cyber defense and security capabilities as well as improve its unmanned aerial systems.

“I think we can partner with Japan in this area, cyber-defense and security which is also one of their thrusts of the Japan Self Defense Force,” he said.

The Matinloc gas platform situated in northwest Palawan has ceased operations last year and is being eyed to be converted into floating monitoring stations for the Philippine Navy due to its strategic location.

Gapay said the situation in the West Philippine Sea remains “very tense” due to the “aggressive actions” of China as well as the activities of the United States.

The AFP chief said China has been conducting its own unilateral exercises in the area while the US has been displaying a show of force as it advocates freedom of navigation.

China has been claiming almost all of the South China Sea despite having no legal basis.

The Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Taiwan as well have claims in the disputed seas. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Lea Ylagan)

DND assures Philippine sovereignty even with Chinese companies in gov’t projects

Marje Pelayo   •   September 10, 2020

MANILA, Philippines— Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez expressed concern that allowing the third telecommunication company, Dito Telecommunity Corporation, to construct cell sites in military camps would threaten national security.

Rodriguez noted that the firm is 40 percent owned by the Chinese.

“Can you imagine there will be Chinese allegedly employees of Dito who may be spies for China – where we have a conflict especially in the West Philippine Sea – entering our camps and being able to secure installations which should not be known by outside forces?” he said.

But Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that Dito will only be allowed to construct cell sites within existing ones.

“Most camps actually in the Philippines already have cell towers of Globe and Smart,” Lorenzana explained.

“The contract for the Memorandum of Agreement that I signed or approved between the (the Armed Forces of the Philippines) and Dito is that, it will just be limited to those camps as well,” he added.

Rodriguez also opposed the Philippine government’s accommodation of Chinese contractors for the Sangley Airport project, the same Chinese contractors involved in the contractions of structures in the West Philippine Sea.

“The advice that we can give maybe to the President is to properly screen these companies before they can conduct business here.” Lorenzana noted.

“As I said a while ago, the President had already decided that they can continue their project here so all we can do now is to be very, very sure that their entering into our territory will not endanger our sovereignty,” he added.

Lorenzana also reminded that if the contract gets canceled, the Philippine government will be fined with a huge amount. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

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