Sunken boat’s cook insists no other Filipino vessels in collision site

Marje Pelayo   •   June 17, 2019   •   1888

(L-R) Arlinda dela Torre and Richard Blaza with Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol and the sunken boat at the site of the collision

MANILA, Philippines – Richard Blaza, the cook of the Filipino fishing boat that figured in a sea collision with a Chinese vessel in Recto Bank, maintained there were no other Philippine sea vessels in the area when the incident happened on June 9.

Blaza, together with the boat’s owner Arlinda dela Torre, met with Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol on Monday (June 17) to narrate their ordeals on the evening of the encounter.

Piñol confirmed what really transpired that night when Blaza was the only one wide awake and saw the approaching Chinese vessel Yuemaobinyu 42212.

Citing Blaza’s account, Piñol said the cook immediately awakened the captain of the boat to inform him of the approaching vessel.

But even before they were able to start the boat’s engine, the Chinese vessel hit and damaged their boat causing it to sink.

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

Blaza said the Chinese vessel, which was about 40 to 50 meters in length, circled their fishing boat, flashed its lights on them and then left.

He insisted that there were no other Filipino vessels in the area.

In fact, he estimated that the Vietnamese vessel who rescued them was about five miles away from them.

“Naisip pa namin kung mabubuhay pa (ba) kami doon? Mabuti may Vietnam doon (We were asking ourselves: Are we going to make it out alive? Good thing the Vietnamese were there),” Blaza said.

While waiting for rescue, the fishermen managed to survive by keeping themselves afloat with the help of the boat’s compressor.

Blaza’s testimony, according to Secretary Piñol, is an outright contrast to the claims of the Chinese government that about seven to eight Filipino vessels came to “besiege” their crewmen and that the Chinese vessel accidentally hit F/B GEM-VER 1 as it maneuvered to leave the area.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) is still waiting for the result of the investigation on whether the ramming incident was intentional or accidental.

Amid the controversy, Piñol said there is no reason to bar Filipino fishermen from fishing in Recto Bank.

“We will continue fishing in that area. That is our traditional fishing ground and we will continue doing that,” he said.

“We will not advise our fishermen not to go to the area. In fact, we will encourage them. Marami palang Lapu-lapu doon. Ang mahal mahal ng Lapu-lapu ngayon (There is an abundance of lapu-lapu fish there and its price is high in markets nowadays),” he added.

To assist the affected fishermen, the DA will provide them new boats including 11 fiberglass boats and P25,000 cash assistance each of the fishermen’s family.

The agency will also extend assistance to the owner of the damaged fishing boat for her expenses in acquiring the million-peso worth fishing vessel.

Secretary Piñol expressed gratitude to the Vietnamese crewmen to rescued the Filipino fishermen and vowed to push for the modernization of fishing vessels in the country. (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

Owner of Chinese vessel apologizes over Reed Bank incident

Aileen Cerrudo   •   August 28, 2019

The wreckage of Philippine fishing boat, F/B Gem-Ver after getting hit by a Chinese fishing vessel while anchored in Reed Bank on June 9, 2019.

The owner of the Chinese vessel, through a Chinese ‘Association’, has apologized for the Recto Bank incident last June 9.

In a memorandum posted by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Twitter, the Chinese ‘Association’ where the shipowner is a member, sends their sympathies to the Filipino fishermen for the collision between the Chinese and Philippine fishing boats.

The name of the said association was not disclosed by the DFA.

The association also came up with the accident investigation report. They reiterated that the said collision was “an unintentional mistake”. However, they still believe that the Chinese vessel should still take the major responsibility for the “accident”.

“Our association will urge the shipowner of the fishing boat involved to actively coordinate with the Philippine side to expedite the latter’s claim for compensation according to the procedures for insurance claim,” the memorandum states.

On June 9, 22 Filipino fishermen were abandoned after a Chinese vessel “accidentally” rammed their fishing boat in Recto Bank.—AAC

34 of 400 samples of pork products tested positive of African Swine Fever – BAI

Marje Pelayo   •   July 19, 2019

Boxes of pork items from Poland intercepted in Cebu on June 27 | Courtesy: BAI

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Customs (BOC) has intercepted a number of pork products from Hong Kong and China at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in between June 19 to 28.

The items didn’t have sanitary and phytosanitary clearances from the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) and could have been infested by the deadly pig virus African Swine Fever (ASF).

China is one of the 19 countries from where entry of pork and pork-based products are banned.

From a total of 400 samples that BAI examined, 34 tested positive of ASF and these products could have caused infestation in the country’s hog industry if they were not intercepted.

Germany was the latest addition to the list of countries where entry of pork products to the Philippines was banned.

Though there were no reports yet of ASF-infestation in Germany, the Philippines included it in the list after a German company exported pork products to the Philippines along with some 250 kilograms of pork from ASF-hit Poland.

The said shipment was intercepted in Cebu on June 27 which included 27 boxes of pork items from Poland.

That incident, according to Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol, was a clear violation of the country’s Quarantine Law thus resulting in the ban of pork products from Germany.

“Nakikiusap ako.(‘Im appealing to you) Please understand, these are extraordinary times. We cannot take the risk,” Secretary Piñol said.

“Kasi tingnan mo, Germany napaka-respectable na bansa nyan. It’s export country known for its high standards, nasingitan tayo, (You see Germany is a highly respected country. It’s exports are known for its high standards but some banned (pork) slip past their screening,)” he explained.

Piñol stressed that ASF infestation would compromise the country’s P260-B worth of hog industry.

Some of the Philippines’ neighboring countries have already declared an outbreak of ASF such as Vietnam and Cambodia.

In May, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has asked store owners to self-recall pork products from China that covers those manufactured since the start of the import ban.

Still, Piñol assures the Philippines’ hog industry remains ASF free. – with reports from Rey Pelayo

Farmers to lose P114-B a year if farm gate price of palay remains low — Piñol

Marje Pelayo   •   July 17, 2019

Rice farmers in the Philippines

MANILA, Philippines – Local farmers may lose up to P114 billion if the farm gate price of fresh palay remains low, according to Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol.

At present, the price of palay ranges only from P12/kg to P14/kg which is lower than the P20/kg, the price that was in effect before the implementation of the Rice Tarrification Law (RTL) in March.

Secretary Piñol noted that traders earn huge income from the liberalization of rice importation.

He also pointed out that the landed cost of rice is only a small amount like those which are imported from Myanmar which is only P18/kg.

Because the new law stripped off National Food Authority’s (NFA) regulatory function, traders have become aggressive in pushing for more importation.

“Masyadong ganadong mag-import yung mga trader right now kasi feeling nila wala ng magko-control sa presyo ng bentahan ng bigas sa palengke. So napakalaki ng margin of profit nila, (Traders have become more aggressive to import because they believe nobody else will control the pricing of rice in local markets so their margin of profit is increasing),” the Agriculture chief said.

Based on the Department of Agriculture’s monitoring, rice prices at present ranges from P32/kg up to P70/kg with only about P1 to P2 drop per kilogram.

This is about a quarter of the expected reduction in the price of commercial rice in relation to the implementation of the rice tariffication law which is supposedly P7/kg.

The Department is set to implement the suggested retail price (SRP) on commercial rice starting next week which ranges from P35/kg to P38/kg.

“We would like to address the greed of some importers doon sa markup nilang napakalaki (regarding their very high markup) by setting a cap on the selling price of imported rice

The official said the implementation of the SRP is based on the Price Act wherein violators may be fined.

The NFA already implemented the SRP on rice in the past but it was invalidated due to the implementation of the RTL.

Piñol said that the law did not specify a limit on the amount of rice that the country may import.

However, it gives the President the authority to increase tariff in the event of oversupply. – with details from Rey Pelayo

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