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

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Monday, June 17th, 2019

(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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Murad approves of Piñol as Duterte’s ‘point man’ in BARMM

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

Department of Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte confirmed on Thursday (July 11) that Chief Minister Al Hajj Murad Ebrahim of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) has approved the transfer of Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol to head the Mindanao Development Authority (MINDA).

The agreement transpired during Murad’s meeting with the President on Wednesday (July 10).

The President vouched for Piñol as he said he needs someone to be his ‘point man’ in the region.

“(We are trying to) fine tune. The truth of the matter is I really transferred Piñol to assist them. Hindi naman to husbandry,” the President said.

“Wala akong point man doon na tagaroon, doon pinanganak, doon lumaki, farmer, became governor (I don’t have a point man there who was born and raised there, someone who’s a farmer and has served as governor),” he added.

“I’m sure he can help the BARMM and the government to fast track. I am most interested na makita na ng Moro people ang hinihingi nila (for the Moro people to see what they asked for),” Duterte explained, adding that aside from Murad, the other BARMM ministers also said ‘yes’ to the proposal. – with reports from Rosalie Coz

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Phl must reject ‘lopsided’, ‘unconstitutional’ verbal deal with China – Carpio

by Maris Federez   |   Posted on Friday, July 5th, 2019

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio believes that the Philippines must set aside and reject what he calls as a “lopsided” and “unconstitutional” verbal agreement it forged with China.

The court official also expressed his agreement with Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. when the latter said in an interview that only the Philippines is allowed to fish in Philippine waters.

Justice Carpio, in a statement, said there is no official policy that allows China to fish in Reed Bank (locally known as Recto Bank).

“Secretary Locsin knows that there is no recorded minutes of the so-called verbal agreement between President Xi and President Duterte allowing the Chinese to fish in Reed Bank in exchange for Filipinos fishing in Scarborough Shoal,” said Carpio.

The Senior Associate Justice added, “Any such verbal agreement, if confirmed by the Philippine government, will bind the Philippines to allow the Chinese to fish in Reed Bank for as long as China allows Filipinos to fish in Scarborough Shoal.”

Carpio also underscored the difference between Reed Bank which is 8,660 sq. km in area, and Scarborough Shoal which is only 150 sq. km in area; emphasizing that “Filipinos can fish only outside the lagoon of Scarborough Shoal, not inside the lagoon which is the rich fishing area.”

He also noted that China has the largest fishing fleet in the world with huge modern trawlers, comparing it with the Philippines whose Filipino fishermen only have wooden boats with outriggers. 

“The Chinese can deplete the fish in Reed Bank very quickly,” he stressed.

Justice Carpio also pointed out that the verbal agreement, aside from being clearly against the Constitution, is so lopsided it should be rejected by the Philippine government.

Reed Bank is within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone.

“Under the Constitution, the use and enjoyment of the fish and other natural resources within Philippine EEZ is reserved exclusively for Filipinos,” Justice Carpio further said. (with reports from Mai Bermudez) /mbmf

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China rejects third-party probe on Recto Bank incident – Palace

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Monday, July 1st, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – China has rejected the proposed involvement of a third party in the investigation into the sinking of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese vessel near Recto Bank (also called Reed Bank), Malacañang said on Monday.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Beijing does not see any need for a third-party investigation as the issue can be resolved through the joint probe.

“Nag-offer sila ng joint investigation, tapos inaccept ni presidente, tapos may third party, ang sabi naman nila, wag nang third party, kailangan tayo na lang mag-usap duon,” Panelo said in a Palace press briefing.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said he is okay with having a third-party probe even after as he accepted Beijing’s offer for a joint investigation into the maritime incident.

On June 9, a Chinese boat rammed into a Filipino fishing vessel and abandoned its 22 crew members at sea.

The president described the incident as a little maritime accident, saying the Filipino boat was sideswiped and not rammed.

Although a preliminary report was already handled by the agencies tasked to investigate the matter, Duterte said he has yet to reveal its contents as he is still awaiting China’s official report on the incident.

READ: Duterte says Filipino fishing boat was sideswiped, not rammed in Recto Bank

Panelo said China also suggested the creation of respective task groups which would meet and exchange results of separate investigations conducted.           

“Dapat immediately, since they are suggesting the creation of task force, dapat mag-create na tayo ng task force,” he said.

“In fact, I intend to tell the president pagdating mamaya sa cabinet meeting,” he added.

The Palace official, however, stressed the Philippine could always push for a third-party probe should the two countries fail to agree on the findings.

He also believes there will be no serious disagreements between the two parties.

“Kasi sinabi na nila na kailangang maresolve na natin ito. Nasisira ang relasyon natin dahil dito, kailangang ayusin na natin ito. Yung sinasabi mong mag-iinsist, di tayo magi-insist. Isa-suggest natin, kung halimbawang di tayo magkasundo, pwede ba humanap tayo ng 3rd party,” he said.

Panelo also allayed fears on China’s possible manipulation of probe results, vowing to hold accountable the Chinese crew should they be found guilty of abandonment charges. (with details from Rosalie Coz)

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