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

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

(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)

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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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Piñol goes ‘less audio’ as DA chief after Duterte’s talkative’ remarks

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Friday, June 28th, 2019

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol

MANILA, Philippines – Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol has opted to limit giving statements following President Rodrigo Duterte’s remarks of him being ‘talkative’.

He also preferred not to give media interviews following his letter to the President through Senator-elect Christopher ‘Bong’ Go asking him to be relieved and transferred to a different position in the government.

“To my friends in the media, President Rody Duterte has described me as “just talkative,” so there will be less audio coming from my side from now on,” the Secretary said Thursday (June 27) on his Facebook page.

“Also, to those who would like to set interviews with me to discuss my offer to resign which I submitted to the President through Senator Bong Go yesterday, I am sorry but I will not give any statement on the matter,” he added.

The Agriculture Secretary signified his courtesy resignation following reports that the President was inclined to move him to become chair of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), also a Cabinet post.

READ: Duterte mulls appointing Piñol as MinDA chief

Piñol, in his letter to the President said his request to be relieved from his current position is for “the best interest of the Department of Agriculture and its stakeholders,”

“I am a soldier of the President and I believe that a warrior does not choose the battle fields nor the battle. It is not the size of the battle field or the odds that matters but it is how you fight to win the battle,” he said.

“Until such time, the President decides on where to field me to wage another battle, I will continue my advocacies and work in the Department of Agriculture.,” he concluded.

The Agriculture Secretary thanked the President for his continued trust to be part of his Cabinet.

Secretary Piñol was President Duterte’s personal pick to the Department of Agriculture (DA) when the latter took over as president in 2016. – with details from Rey Pelayo

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Duterte mulls appointing Piñol as MinDA chief

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Friday, June 28th, 2019

Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol

MANILA, Philippines – Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol offered to be relieved from his current post through a courtesy resignation submitted to President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday (June 27).

The President said he is yet to accept Piñol’s resignation though he is inclined to move the Secretary to the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA).

The Chief Executive added that he intends to talk first to Bangsamoro Interim Chief Minister Al Hajj Murad Ebrahim about the idea.

“Until after I shall have talked to Murad, baka hindi niya tanggapin doon, at sabihin (he might not accept him and tell me): ‘What are you messing up with?’ Ang akin tulong lang (I’m just trying to help),” Duterte said.

“Kung ano legislation kailangan (If legislation is needed), I will bring it to Malacañang, and we will dwell on it, refer it to Congress or prepare a law,” he added.

While he has not yet formally accepted Piñol’s resignation, the President is now looking for someone to take over as Agriculture Secretary.

Meanwhile, the President clarified that he is moving Piñol not because of corruption, the rice issue or incompetence.

He said he just wanted someone to serve as the national government’s ‘point man’ to the Bangsamoro autonomous region.

“Corruption, wala (none). He is not corrupt. He is just talkative,” President Duterte concluded. – with details from Rosalie Coz

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