Senator decries sea incident ‘cover-up’

Risa Hontiveros

Risa Hontiveros described the Chinese government’s response to the West Philippine Sea hit-and-run incident, through its embassy here in Manila, as preposterous.

Hontiveros said that it is a flimsy attempt at a cover-up to shield the involved Chinese crew from any accountability and shift the blame and responsibility to the distressed Filipino fishermen..

“The claim that the Chinese vessel “accidentally” hit and sank our ship because it was “suddenly besieged by 7 or 8 Filipino fishing boats” is ridiculous. Equally incredible is the excuse that the Chinese vessel failed to rescue our fishermen because it was “afraid of being besieged’ by our boats,’” Hontiveros said.

Hontiveros pointed out that it is the Chinese vessels which regularly trespass our territories which have a long record of harassing our fisherfolk in the region.

“This is well documented and even part of a recent case filed before the International Criminal Court. In fact, Chinese ships have been ramming, firing water cannons at and sinking Vietnamese vessels in the Paracels for several years now,” Hontiveros added.

She also asked that if there were 7 to 8 Filipino fishing boats in the area, “why were our fishermen rescued by the Vietnamese?”

“Why would our fishermen wait for several hours, exposed to the mercy of the elements, before they were saved from danger?” the senator asked.

The senator called on President Rodrigo Duterte to immediately downgrade the country’s ties with China, as expressed through the immediate recall of diplomats stationed in the country.

“The downgrading of ties will upgrade our position in finding justice for our aggrieved fisherfolk and in defending our sovereignty,” Hontiveros added.

“Lastly, I call on President Duterte to break his silence on this serious issue,” the senator said.

Boats for fishers

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has committed to provide a fiberglass boat to each of the 22 crew members of a fishing vessel rammed by a Chinese vessel.

In his report to Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, BFAR Executive Director Eduardo Gongona said that the fiberglass boat to be given will have complete accessories including engine and nets.

Piñol disclosed that BFAR Regional Elizer Salilig welcomed the fishermen when they arrived Friday night at Occidental Mindoro onboard a navy vessel.    

The BFAR, Piñol said, distributed 22 sacks of rice as an immediate assistance to the fishermen.

He added that BFAR MMOV 5002 Francisco Dagohoy just found the vessels FB Ginver1 and FB Thanksgiving at Linapacan Strait and they will give assistance to the vessels.

With Cory Martinez