by Robie de Guzman | Posted on Friday, March 15th, 2019
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. will embark on a four-day official visit to China next week, the Department of Foreign Affairs announced Thursday (March 16).
The official visit will take place from March 18 to 21, upon the invitation of Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
“Secretary Locsin and his Chinese counterpart will hold a bilateral meeting to discuss the strengthening of the friendly relations between the Philippines and China in the spirit of mutual respect and through enhanced functional cooperation,” the DFA said in a statement.
The two foreign ministers are also expected to tackle ways to advance the larger goal of “bringing peace and prosperity to the region.”
This will be Locsin’s first visit to China since assuming the post in October last year.
The Duterte administration has been vocal on its intent to forge stronger economic ties with China despite a maritime dispute over the South China Sea.
The incumbent government has opted to hold a bilateral consultation mechanism with China to settle the dispute, setting aside discussions on the permanent court of arbitration’s ruling on the contested waterways.
In 2016, the international tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines’ arbitration case against China’s expansive nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea. – Robie de Guzman
by Robie de Guzman | Posted on Monday, June 17th, 2019
MANILA, Philippines – The Maritime Authority (Marina) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has been tasked to jointly conduct further investigations into the collision incident involving Filipino and Chinese fishing vessels near Recto Bank (also called Reed Bank) in the West Philippine Sea, a Cabinet official said Monday.
Secretary to the Cabinet Karlo Nograles said the issue was discussed in a Cabinet cluster meeting on Monday afternoon.
Nograles said that during the meeting of the Economic Development and Security, Justice and Peace clusters, it was agreed that Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol would lead the government response primarily focused on assisting the 22 Filipino crewmen who were rescued from the sinking boat.
“Sec. Piñol has been directed to tap all available government resources – including assistance from DA (Department of Agriculture) and DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) – to assist our countrymen, with components of the support package to come from other government agencies,” Nograles said.
Meanwhile, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, who was also Region 4-B Cabinet officer for regional development and security (CORDS) was designated as co-lead.
Last June 9, 22 Filipinos were left at sea after their boat F/B GEM-VIR 1 was rammed and sunk by a Chinese vessel. They were later rescued by Vietnamese fishermen.
China’s Embassy in Manila earlier said the incident was accidental, claiming that the Chinese vessel Yuemaobinyu 42212 was berthed at the vicinity when “suddenly besieged by 7 or 8 Filipino fishing boats.”
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.
Nograles said the Philippine government last week filed a “strongly-worded” diplomatic protest as an initial action to the incident.
Initial inquiries have also been conducted by Cusi, the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and the PCG to determine the extent of the liabilities involved and in order to ascertain the most effective legal means to obtain justice for our countrymen.
Malacañang earlier said it will wait for the results of the investigation before taking further action.
by Aileen Cerrudo | Posted on Monday, June 17th, 2019
Cerillo Escuterio recalled they already caught three tons of fish before a Chinese vessel rammed into their fishing vessel, F/B GemVir 1, on June 9.
The 22-man crew was then left floating in the open sea for three hours before a Vietnamese vessel came to rescue.
Escuterio has been a fisherman for seven years. He said the amount of fish caught in the region is what made him decide to become a fisherman.
The fishes were not only abundant but also beautiful, he added.
But after their fishing vessel was destroyed, Escuterio and his companions were left with no choice but to think of other ways to earn for their family.
F/B GemVir 1’s captain Junel Insigne insisted the Chinese vessel intentionally rammed into their boat.
He remembered how their ship sank. He also remembered how the Chinese vessel turned off their lights before they sail off.
“Pagbangga biglang lumubog na iyong bangka namin. Paglubog umikot iyong Chinese fishing vessel, pagikot inilawan kami. Kita namin mga tao sa lantsa na Chinese fishing vessel. Pagilaw nila nakita kami lubog, umatras [sila] nang todo bago sabay patay uli [ng] ilaw takbo palayo (They hit us and our boat sank. When it did sink, the Chinese fishing vessel turned around and shed a light on us. We saw the people there. After lighting on us, they sailed backwards and turned off their lights),” he said.
Escuterio also denied claims that it was an accident because the engine wasn’t even on.
“Mali ang kanilang statement na sinasabi nilang aksidente. Mali po iyon talagang sinadya nila na banggain kami kasi kami ay naka-anchor. Steady bangka namin ang engine namin patay hindi kami naandar (Their statement that it was an accident is wrong. That is wrong, they intentionally hit us because we had our anchor down. Our boat was steady because our engine was off),” Escuterio said.
Both fishermen called on the president to help them, not only for their financial needs but also to hold those involved accountable.
“Ang panawagan ko lang sa ating mahal na pangulo gusto ko lang mapaayos iyang bangka na iyan kasi diyan lang kami kumukuha ng aming ikabubuhay (I call on our beloved president, I just want our boat fixed because that’s where we get out livelihood),” Insigne said.
by Aileen Cerrudo | Posted on Monday, June 17th, 2019
One of the rescued fishermen has belied the statement of the Chinese Embassy in Manila claiming that the Chinese vessel was “besieged by 7 or 8 Filipino fishing boats.”
Justin Pacaul expressed dismay by the statement saying they almost lost their lives due to the incident.
“Bakit kami pa ang baliktarin na nang-harass sa kanila? Kung kami man mang-harass sa kanila hindi namin kakayanin, malaki bangka nila at marami sila sa amin (Why will they reverse [the story] saying we harassed them? If we did, we won’t be able to do it. Their boat is bigger and they outnumber us),” he said.
Department of Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said the Chinese vessel may not have intentionally rammed the Filipino vessel. He also added that there is a need to thoroughly review the incident since it involves another country.
“Ang masasabi natin this really is an accident that happened. Kasi sasabihin natin kung talagang babanggain, sabihin natin napakabulok naman nung babangga, daplis lang. Siyempre kung meant to kill, siyempre diretso mo na (What we can say, this is really an accident. Because if they intentionally rammed it, and let’s say the boat is dilapidated—it was just a scratch. Of course, if it is meant to kill they should have gone for it),” he said.
Meanwhile, the wives of the 22 fishermen were happy to see their husbands safely return home. However, they are now concerned about their livelihood.
“Hindi po namin alam kung paano namin masu-solusyunan pang araw-araw dahil wala na pong bangka na paglalautan sila (We do not know how we can solve our daily expenses since they no longer have a boat to sail),” according to Mailyn Pacaul, Justin’s wife.
Cecille Gregorio also worries about the livelihood of her husband.
“Masaya nang makita ko siya na okay naman. Ang tanging kinalulungkot namin ngayon, wala kaming kabuhayan ngayon. Wala siyang hanapbuhay (I am happy to see him safe. Our worry now is we don’t have any livelihood),” she said.—(with reports from Sherwin Culubong)
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