Gem Ver 1, a commercial fishing vessel from San Jose, Occidental Mindoro represents the sorry state of local fishermen in protecting themselves in open sea and the need for the government to give more attention to fishery sector.
FROM THE INSIDE:
- Occidental Mindoro Fishery Summit 2020 agenda, tinukoy
- BFAR apprehends 2 CFVs for illegal fishing in Calintaan
- VG Peter Alfaro: Maayos na suporta sa mga mangingisda
- The alarming tuna industry status
In the last couple of days, the story of Occidental Mindoro’s 22 fishermen from the Municipality of San Jose sold like hot cakes in social and mass media. It stirred up emotions and herded divided opinions among analysts and bystanders.
However, their saga appears to be at its closing episode when they received livelihood assistance from DA Sec. Manny Piñol and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resource (BFAR).
(Photos from Bfar Mimaropa)
As per Bfar Mimaropa‘s post at their Facebook page, the twenty-two (22) crewmen of F/B Gem Ver 1 secured for themselves 12 fiberglass-reinforced plastic (FRB) plastic boats, bottom-set gill nets, hook and lines, life best, and a sack of rice.
The aid came almost in an instant after the boat captain Junel Insigne apologized to President Rodrigo Duterte, June 19. This followed after recanting his previous story that Chinese vessel intentionally rammed and sank their F/B Gem Ver 1 fishing boat in Recto Bank last June 9.
So how did their story brewed our coffee? Let’s try putting things in a time line based on new reports.
June 9, 2019. At around 11:30pm, Chinese trawler Yuemaobinyu 42212 purportedly hit F/B Gim-Ver 1 with 22 crewmen from San Jose, Occidental Mindoro off Recto Bank in West Philippine Sea which resulted to its sinking.
Gem Ver’s cook Richard Blaza said he informed and woke up others before the Chinese trawler hit them.
FB Gimver 1 left the shore of Municipality of San Jose, Occidental Mindoro to fish at Recto Bank, May 29. They reached Recto Bank at West Philippine Sea in May 31, 2019.
June 10, 2019. At around 1:00am, after hours of floating in open sea, the 22 fishermen were rescued by Vietnamese boat Captain Nguyen Thanh Tam together with his 10 crew from the Province of Tien Giang. The Filipino fishermen were given “rice, instant noodles, and warm materials”.
Saigon Times reported that the Vietnamese boat is owned by 54-year old Ngo Van Theng, a resident of Tien Giang’s Go Cong town. He confirmed it was his boat that rescued the Filipinos.
The Filipino fishermen then borrowed the Vietnamese radio to contact Filipino fishing vessels nearby for help. M2M fishing boat picked up their call and reached for the Vietnamese boat to pickup Gem Ver 1’s crew.
Alerted of the incident in the morning through Maritime Situational Awareness Center – West (MSAC-WEST), the Philippine Navy then sent BRP Ramon Alcaraz to rescue the 22 fishermen.
June 12, 2019. National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana broke the news to the media coinciding with Philippines’ 121st Independence Day Celebration, condemning in strongest term the Chinese action particularly that of abandoning Filipino seafarers.
These were his statements:
Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Command Spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Penetrante also sees it “far from accidental”. These were his statements:
“According to our report, it’s far from accidental kasi kung accidental po ito, the SOP should be they should stop ‘di po ba? And then they should rescue, rescue these fishermen natin ano po. E nung tinamaan nila yung F/B Gem Ver 1 ay ano po sila, dire-diretso, hindi nila tinigilan. Kung titingnan nyo po sa incident report, may intentionality e, kasi hindi na po tumigil.
Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin also shared his view on the matter through his twitter account Wednesday evening.
“I take my cue from Defense Sec. Lorenzana. What is contemptible and condemnable is the abandonment of the crew to the elements. Vietnam’s rescue will be the basis of enhanced Vietnam-PH military cooperation“.
“And by the way I just fucking landed in Geneva. I’ve been airborne. I am awaiting a West Philippine Sea task force report. My reaction thus far relies exclusively on Defense Secretary Lorenzana. I can’t rely on media; it’d be irresponsible to rely only on media”, he added.
June 13, 2019. Senator Sonny Triallanes called on Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin that the incident be referred to Maritime Safety Committee of International Maritime Organization. But before that, twitting on Thursday morning, June 13, Sec. Locsin reacted otherwise by stating “Fuck the international communit. It can be bought. This is our fight and in the end ours alone”.
He however confirmed that he’s filling a protest to IMO in response to Sen. Triallane’s tweet.
Sec. Locsin tweeted that he “will proceed on the merits of the case and what it calls for awhile the matter is studied by the IMO”.
The Foreign Affairs Secretary also considered the incident as an “allision” rather than “collision”.
“Wrong. It’s presumably an “allision” or bumping of two vessels one of which was stationary. Ramming is another thing altogether requiring proof of intentionality. So far as I know none of us is a mind reader not least because some of us have no mind with which to read another”, he tweeted Thursday night.
In a Palace briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo on the hand said that the Chinese government is “seriously” and “thoroughly” looking into the incident as the latter has already launched an investigation.
Panelo’s statement is based on the text message sent to him by Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua which reads: “The fishing boat issue is being thoroughly and seriously investigated. We share your concerns about fishermen. It is were true that it was a Chinese fishing boat, they would be duly educated and punished for their irresponsible behavior. Incidents happen even in the best-regulated family. We hope this incident could be held in a proper context”.
But for Panelo,“Whether it is a form of bullying or not, it’s outrageous, it’s barbaric, it’s uncivilized and we’re condemning it. The act of abandonment, by those sailing the Chinese vessel of 22 Filipino fishermen aboard their anchored and stationary watercraft by them, is uncivilized as it is outrageous. Such act of desertion is inhuman as it is barbaric. It is a crystal-clear violation of maritime protocols as well as an infringement of internationally accepted practice of assisting a vessel in distress. We call on the appropriate Chinese authorities to probe the collision and impose the proper sanctions to the Chinese crew”.
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Geng Shuang however considered the incident as “an ordinary maritime traffic incident” and that it is irresponsible for the Philippines to have it “politicized”.
“If the relevant reports are true, regardless of the country from which the perpetrator came from, their behavior should be condemned”, Geng Shuang added.
In the contrary, Spokesman Panelo said, “Regardless of the nature of the collision, whether it was accidental or intentional, common decency and the dictates of humanity require the immediate saving of the crew of the downed Philippine vessel”.
Later that day, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana softened his stand on the issue, stating that he is unsure if the vessel that rammed F/B Gem Ver 1 is really Chinese.
These were his statements when interviewed by reporters in General Santos City:
“We are just relying on the statement of the fishermen that the ship that hit them was a Chinese ship. Yun lang ang bavsehan ko nung sinabi kong Chinese ‘yon ha. Now we will still get an inquiry, tanungin natin yung Vietnamese, and Vietnam side, Chinese side, kung meron silang report na gano’n. We will find out kung ano ang aksyon nila, kung it will be proven that it is a Chinese vessel, then we will find out what are their actions”.
Mayor Festin appealed to President Duterte to speak out with “muscle in mouth” regarding the incident.
“Ipakita natin yung ating muscle. May muscle din tayo kahit sa bibig. Kung wala man tayong muscle sa giyera eh sa bunganga man lang at sa tinatawag na propoer court kung saan dapat dalhin yan. Sana ‘wag mapabayaan itong kaso na ito, at saka gawing transparent para ang lahat ng mga concerned tio – lahat ng mga Pilipino concerned eh – para maintindihan at walang agam-agam”, Mayor Festin said.
Fe Dela Torre, the wife Felix Dela Torre and owner of Gem Ver 1 appealed for justice.
“Katarungan. Katarungan lang po para sa tao ko ang hinihingi ko po kasi po may mga anak din sila at umaasa kasi sila. Ang sa amin lang, sana mahinto na ito, mabigyan ng aksyon. Kasi nakakaawa tayo kung ang dayuhan, uulit-ulitin pa rin”, she lamented.
Katarungan. Katarungan lang po para sa tao ko ang hinihingi ko po kasi po may mga anak din sila, at umaasa kasi sila,”Ang sa amin lang, sana mahinto na ito, mabigyan ng aksiyon, kasi nakakaawa tayo kung ang dayuhan, uulit-ulitin pa rin.”
June 14, 2019.
Gem Ver 1 seafarers returned to San Jose port aboard BRP Tausug, on which they were transferred to from BRP Alcaraz. They were turned over to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and were welcomed by Regional Director Elizer Salilig who gave 1 sack of rice to each fishermen as immediate assistance.
Gem Ver 1 skipper Junel Insigne in an interview said that they were intentionally rammed by the Chinese vessel.
“Sinadya po iyon dahil kung hindi po iyon sinadya dapat babalikan kami, tutulungan. Ay bakit tinakbuhan po kami tapos sinindihan yung ilaw? Nung nakita kaming lubog, tinakbuhan kami… Kaya nga po, wala naman kaming pinuperwisyo sa kanila. Naghahanap-buhay naman po kami ng maayos eh”, Insigne said.
Felix Dela Torre, owner of the sunken boat, also expressed his frustration over the incident, saying he felt like Filipinos are “slaves” of China.
“Syempre po, parang alipin tayo ng China. Parang wala tayong karapatan sa sariling ating nasasakupan”, says Dela Torre.
Meanwhile, a day after Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin said “Fuck the international community”, Philippine’s deputy permanent representative to International Maritime Organization Senen Mangalile delivered the statement slamming the Chinese ship for ramming Gem Ver 1.
The Press Release reads:
PH STATEMENT AT IMO URGES PROTECTION OF LIFE AT SEA
LONDON – The Philippines urge all member states of the United Nations and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to put a premium on protecting life at sea in cases of maritime distress.
In a statement at the 101st Session of the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) at the IMO Senen T. Mangalile referred to the Philippine fishing vessel which sank after an incident with a Chinese vessel while anchored at the vicinity of Recto Bank in Palawan.
The Philippine statement drew attention to the fact that the Filipino crew of the fishing vessel “were callously abandoned to the elements on the rough seas and woud have perished” were it not for the assistance from the crew of a Vietnamese vessel. The statement highlighted that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the IMO convention on Safety of Life at Sea and Maritime Search and Rescue have express provision on rendering assistance to distressed mariners.
“It is the obligation of every responsible state of the UN and the IMO to implement these conventions and related codes concerning maritime safety and security, rather than just paying lip service to them”, Mangalile said. “It is also our moral obligation to save a human life whenever and wherever we can do so”, he added.
Mangalile also thanked Vietnam for the assistance it provided the 22 Filipino crew.
MSC deals with all matters related to maritime safety and security which fall within within the mandate of the IMO, covering both passenger ships and all kinds of cargo ships. The MSC likewise deals with updating the International for Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and related codes. -END
Chinese Embassy in Manila meanwhile posted in their Twitter account a Press Release on the so-called collision of fishing boats between China and the Philippines.
Notably, it claimed that Yuemaobinyu 42212 “was suddenly besieged by 7 or 8 Filipino fishing boats which prevented them from saving the 22 Filipino fishermen after boat sank due to a “so-called collision”.
The same was posted at their Facebook account at 9:20pm. Hours later, it was taken down, drawing flak from netizens.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador looked into possibility of cutting ties with China if proven guilty.
“We want to find out first. If it was intentional, ibang usapan na ‘yun. If it is intentional, it is an act of aggression. What’s the next step? We will cut off diplomatic relations if there are aggressive acts. First, file a diplomatic protest. If you are not content with their explanation, we find out that it was intentional, that we will be another matter. Given the steps undertaken by the President on the Canada trash issue, that’s more likely…baka severe pa, hindi natin alam. Let’s leave it to the President.”
“We call the Chinese government to probe the incident and to impose punitive action against those at fault. Definitely we will not allow ourselves to be assaulted, to be bullied, to be the subject of such barbaric, uncivilized and outrageous actions from any source. The act of abandonment, bu those sailing the Chinese fishing vessel of twenty-two Filipino fishermen aboard their anchored and stationary watercraft hit by them, is uncivilized as it is outrageous.”
US Embassy, on the other hand expressed relief on the safe return of fishermen in an email sent to Manila Bulletin.
“We saw news reports of the collision at sea. We are thankful none of the Filipino fishermen lost their lives and glad that Vietnamese fishermen rescued them from the open sea”.
They also stood firm on their support for the “lawful uses of the sea, respect for international law, unimpeded lawful commerce, and peace and stability” while urging the parties to “refrain from using coercion and intimidation to assert their territorial and maritime claims”.
Later that night, Junel Insigne reiterated that Chinese boat can’t be besieged since there were no other boat present in the area but Gem Ver 1.
“Wala man. Kami-kami lang ang nandoon. Kami-kami lang. Wala mang ibang bangka doon, kami-kami lang. Dahil nung gabi na yun, lubog nga kami, kami pa ang mag-aatake? Ibig sabihin, naghihintay lang kami ng balik nila, iniintay lang namin na i-save kami, na saklolohan. Ay bakit umatras sila, bago pinatay ang ilaw, bago tumakbo nang palayo”, he said.
June 15, 2019. Director of University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea Professor Jay Batongbacal shared a Google Earth screenshot, using visible infrared imaging radiometer suite (VIIRS), of Recto Bank, also known as Reed Bank, that showing boats spread all over the area on the night of June 9, 2019, making it impossible for Chinese vessel to be “suddenly besieged by 7 or 8 Filipino fishing boat” as claimed by Chinese Embassy in Manila.
“The VIIRS satellite data from the night of 09 June 2019 shows only a few fishing vessels operating in the area of Reed Bank at the time. Each boat-icon is a fishing vessel identified by its bright lights. They are spread over the wide area of Reed Bank; the closest two lights are about 3-5 nautical miles (approximately 7 to 9 km) apart. What 7-8 vessel swarm of night-marauding Filipino boats is China talking about?”
“I don’t know which one is the immediate area of the incident, but that point is that there is no potential swarm anywhere, and fishing boats operate far from each other. Of course, their visibility depends on whether they were lighted sufficiently or were stationary long enough during the exact time the satellite passed over, but this just shows how unbelievable their claim (being besieged) is”.
“There is no prior record of any group of Filipino fishing vessels ‘besieging’ (attacking) any other vessel anywhere in the high seas. Ever. Not even the notorious pirates that used to operate in the southern seas operate that way. Only Chinese maritime militia vessels (and Vietnamese maritime militia responding to the Chinese) have been involved is such coordinated swarming system”.
In a news article published at Philstar.com, Agricuture Secretary Manny Piñol announced on Facebook that BFAR Regional Director Elizer Salilig has committed to give 22 “unsinkable” fiberglass boat with complete accessories including engine and nets.
This was reported by Undersecretary Eduardo Gongona, BFAR Executive Director.
At 11:44am, the statement that was posted and then taken down on the night of June 14 was again posted at the Facebook account of Chinese Embassy.
Meanwhile, in an interview with CNN Philippines, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo assured the public that “The President will undertake measures that is appropriate for the incident.
“Depende kasi ‘yan kung anong magiging response ng Chinese government sa ating diplomatic protests”, Panelo added.
He also defended the President for being silent on the issue on the last couple of days.
“The President is a very cautious man. If you noticed he makes calibrated responses. When the President speaks, they are intentional to get some desired effects or sometimes as he calls it he shares the tree for reactions”.
He also cautioned the Filipino fisher whenever they go out in open sea to fish.
“Maging maingat sila sa kanilang ginagawang pangingisda sa lugar na iyon at ipaalam kaagad sa atin kung anuman ang unusual na nakikita nila na maaring magkaroon ng kalakaran kung saan ang kanilang kaligtasan ay malalagay sa alanganin”.
He also rejected Chinese claims of Philippines “politicizing the issue without verification”.
“We are not politicizing that incident. What we’re focusing is on the act of abandoning, not the collision itself…but the act of abandoning that is in violation of Unclos (United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Seas)”.
June 16, 2019. Department of Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi visited San Jose, Occidental Mindoro where he held a meeting with 22 fishermen. The meeting however resulted to Cusi casting doubt on Gem Ver 1 crew’s story to the dismay of the latter.
“So as of now, kasi sasabihin natin, kung talagang babanggain ay bakit, kung sa kuwan ba ano, ah pwede namang sasabihin natin napakabulok naman nung babangga. Daplis lang. Kung sa kuwan ba… Kung mean to kill, mean to.. syempre idiretso mo na.”
The Energy Secretary defended as well the President on his silence as he is still “studying” the situation.
“Ang masasabi natin, this really is an accident that happened. Tinitingnan nga natin nang mabuti since it involves another country noh. Another vessel that is owned and registered in China. We want to, gusto natin maging certain kung ano talaga yung pangyayari on how it happened.”
“Meron po kaming emergency Cabinet meeting dahil pag-aaralan po natin ito, Si Pangulo, Si Mayor Duterte, tahimik, pinag-aaralan niyang mabuti dahil ayaw naman po niyang gumawa ng hakbang na hindi tama ang binabasehang impormasyon”, Cusi said.
Secretary Cusi hailed from Oriental Mindoro and is assigned to oversee the affairs of MIMAROPA Region.
Hours after Mayor Festin’s announcement, Junel Insigne however appeared uncomfortable, citing Secretary Cusi’s statements.
“Kasi sa salita ni Secretary, yung pagbangga daw sa amin, parang padaplis lang. Bakita parang hindi sinadya, dahil padaplis lang.. Bakit parang ganon po salita ni Secretary sa amin?”, Insigne said in an interview.
Justin Pacaul, one of Gem Ver 1 crews, also expressed his disappointment at the turn of events.
His wife Mailyn shared his sentiments. She said she is contemplating a lot on their means of livelihood.
“Hindi po namin alam kung paano namin maso-solusyunan pang araw-araw dahil wala na pong bangka na paglalautan sila. Masaya ako nang makita ko sya na okay naman. Ang tanging kinalulungkot namin ngayon, wala kaming kabuhayan ngayon. Wala siyang hanap-buhay”, says Mailyn.
In an interview with ABS-CBN News that night, Sunday, Mayor Muloy Festin also said that the Provincial Director of Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources was assigned to accompany Insigne and Blaza going to Malacanang.
June 17, 2019. President Duterte finally broke his silence for the first time since National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenza spilled the beans of Recto Bank incident to the media last July 12. He considered it as “maritime incident”, echoing Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Geng Shuang’s June 13 statement treating the same as “an ordinary maritime traffic incident”,
President Duterte made his statements while attending the 121st Philippine Navy Anniversary at Sangley Point, Cavite.
The following were President Duterte’s statements:
“Yang nangyari dyan sa banggaan, that is a maritime incident. Huwag kayo maniwala dyan sa mga pulitiko na bobo. Gusto papuntahin yung Navy. You do not send gray ships there. Banggaan lang ng barko yan. Do not make it worse because there is a, that’s a fertile ground for.. Alam nyong mga sundalo, miscommunication yan. Patay na. And we are not yet ready, we can never be ready in a nuclear war. Because in a nuclear war, kung bitawan lahat yan, earth will dry up and we will all be destroyed. And that is the end of everything. So tamang-tama lang pang-depensa sa atin. Bilihin ko lahat. Pero magsabi tayo, ready, your guns are cocked to go to war, that’s the most stupid thing i can.. Wala, paliparin lahat ng nuclear, e sundalo kayo. Dalawa lang ang bomba, tumuyo ang Japan. Eh (inudible) bitawan yanng almost 1 thousand warheads, di anong mangyari, di walang tutubo dito, pati isda ubos. Maritime incident is a maritime incident. It is best investigated. And I do not now issue statements because there is no investigation and there is no result. Then the only thing that we can do is to wait and give the other party the right to be heard. Importante yan eh. Oh China, marami kang binigay na.. ano ba dito ang totoo. O tapos, anong nangyari, ganito. Then let us sort, ano ang ma-sort natin dyan? Kung bago ano iyung totoo bago tayo mag..(inaudible). Dalawang bangka lang yan. Now you go there and create a tension. I said, hindi ako gago na presidente na papayag na.. If we have to die, we must have to die in correct way and to die with dignity. Hindi yung basta bangga-bangga ka lang dyan. It’s a matter of that incident na nagbanggan yung mga fishing boat. You read a lot about fumigation, anger, kung ano-ano na lang. You know, we are ruled as a civilized nation and members of the community by the laws that govern whatever happen in the seas as we go along our business. There will be rules for a military confrontation. There will be rules for a mistaken identity. There is a rule for fishermen’s boat. There is rule for an aircraft carrier bumping a fishing boat. Ano, with all the.. yung galit, and one national official, event urgent sending the gray ships, war ships, doon sa China Sea. Alam mo, gusto ko yan. Kung ako lang ang pipiliin, gusto ko ng aksyon. But I am not in my boyhood age anymore.” –Manila Bulletin Online.
Hours after President Duterte’s speech, Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin presented the issue of Philippine boat sinking at the United Nations at UN Headquarters in New York. This coincided with the commemoration of the 25th Anniversary of the entry into force of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
In his speech he said, “The 22 Filipino crew were left in the water until a Vietnamese vessel took them on boar. We are grateful, we are eternally in debt to our strategic partner, Vietnam, for this act of mercy and decency.”
“The rescue of persons in distress is a universally recognized obligation of people and governments; and in civil law and, maybe even in common law, it is a felony to abandon people in distress, especially when we cause that distress; and more so when it is no bother at all to save them at no risk to oneself. While no sanction is available in international law, it should be a cause of some concern. Whether International law can be enforced in another matter. And it doesn’t help that parties with the strength to enfore it – and who have invoked a lot the need for it – have not joined it. –Philstar.coml
- to render assistance to any person found at sea in danger of being lost
- to proceed with all possible speed to the rescue of persons in distress, if informed of their need of assistance, in so far as such action may reasonable be expected of him
- after a collision, to render assistance to the other ship, its crew and its passengers and, where possible, to inform the other ship of the name of his own ship, its port of registry and the nearest port at which it will call
Meanwhile, Prof. Jay Batongbacal said that the Chinese vessel has violated Philippine laws against pouching which is classified as a crime by the Philippine Fisheries Code (Republic Act 8550) and under the 1987 Constitution. This is in support to earlier claims of Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio who said that the Chinese vessel has violated the UNCLOS.
“China expressly admitted in their press statement through the Chinese embassy that their vessel was engaged in purse seine fishing operation on Reed Bank, which is within our exclusive economic zone under UNCLOS and as per 2016 Philippine v. China arbitration award. That’s clear and obvious an UNCLOS violation as you can get.. There is no prematurity here because China itself expressly admitted it without prodding from the Philippines”, Prof. Batongbacal said.
Gem Ver 1 Captain Junel Insigne backed out from the supposedly meeting with President Duterte. Mayor Muloy Festin confirmed this saying that Insigne asked to be dropped off on their way to Calapan City where they will take a RORO boat bound to Batangas. They were already in Roxas, Oriental when Insigne expressed his desire to return to San Jose, Occidental Mindoro.
It was then said that Insigne’s wife called him and told him to return home instead upon learning that the Cabinet meeting has been canceled.
In an interview with News5Everywhere, Insigne’s wife expressed her side about the meeting and Secretary Cusi’s statements.
“Wala namang magaganap na pagpupulong, ba’t nga pupunta pa sya, anong gagawin nya dun? Kaya hindi ko sya pinasama. Tsaka masama pati ang loob ko kahapon nga kay Cusi na sabi nya di ba. Hindi naman pala kayo nasentro. Biro lang. Binibiro lang kayo. Pinapahagingan lang kayo. Lumubog ang bangka. Gusto nya pa pala mamatay ang mga tao. Para masabing, ano.. Ang tagal nang kapitan ng asawa ko. Kahit bagyuhan malakas yan. Yan ang halos Kapitan na hindi tumatabi. Mga kasamahan niyang bangka walang huli, siya maraming huli. Tapos sasabihin niyang alon lang ang bumangga, e kalmang-kalma. E sa alon nga hindi nagigiba iyan. Sasabihin niyang ganun… Wag na lang syang tumuloy. Sabi ko sa kanya wala ring mangyayari syo… Eh anong gagawin niya dun. Katulad nyan, ibinalita, wala namang magaganap na pagpupulong. Anong gagawin nya doon? Imbes na maktulong ko dito sa pagluluto ng ulam, maghanap ng mga ulam namin, barbecue. Anong gagawin nya doon?.. Oo, masama talaga (loob ko) lalo na kay Cusi kahapon. Sasabihin nyang ganun. Pinapahagingan lang pala kayo. Hindi naman pala kayo nasentro. Nakakapit naman pala kayo sa bangka, hindi naman pala sa tubig. Yung sabihin niyang ganon. Sabihin ba naman ni Cusi na ganon… Eh kung bagyuhan pa yun pa, malalaking alon, patay silang lahat. Buti nga kalma pa at hindi malakas ang alon”
In an interview with GMA News, Insigne admitted that his decision not to go Manila is largely affected and influenced by Secretary Cusi’s statements last June 16.
He said, “Naano lang din talaga ako sa salita ni Secretary. Medyo masama talaga ang loob ko. Baka panig sya sa China eh. Ewan ko lang po kung makakatulong pa sila. Talagang masama ang loob ko sa sinabi niyang iyon. Akala ko, ano, hindi po totoo iyun. Talagang sinadya po kaming banggani ng Chinese fishing vessel. Ay kung sa akin lang, kung tutulong, eh ano na lang kung tumulong. Pero yung pupunta pa ako doon, hindi na po kaya.”
Insigne’s statement was supported by his fellow Gem Ver 1 crew, Bannie Condeza.
Gem Ver 1 owner Felix Dela Torre added, “Parang sinasabi nilang nagsisinungaling pa yung mga tauhan ko.”
In the same interview, Junel Insigne’s older brother Junnard Insigne admitted that he is the one who told Junel to return to San Jose
He said, “Si Secretary Cusi po, parang kaiba na po yung ano nya. Kasi parang binabaligtad nya po yung sitwasyon po. Yung bangka daw po ay na-kuwan lang ng alon kaya naputol. Bago po yung kuwan, ang sabi ay hindi ho sinasadya. Kasi po iyung kung talagang nasentro sila, talagang patay po sila doon. Talagang hindi lang sila nasentro kaya kuwan, kaya sa pwet lang sila dumaan.”
Junel Insigne’s wife even said Presidente Duterte should go to Mindoro if he wants to help. She said, “..Siya ang pumunta dito kung gusto niyang tumulong. Tumulong sya kung gusto nya.”
Richard Blaza however went on to go to Manila. With him is Arlinda Dela Torre, the mother of Felix Dela Torre who owns the sunken boat.
In other story, Malacañang refused to accept the statement made by Felix Dela Torre, the owner of the sunken boat, who felt that Filipinos are Chinese “slaves” and “have no sovereignty over its own waters”.
Opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros, on the other hand demanded that Energy Sec. Cusi apologize to fishermen of Occidental Mindoro. She said Sec. Cusi’s remarks “are the height of insensitivity to our poor fisherfolk, ignorance of facts and even bordering on the treacherous”.
“It becomes completely understandable, then, why Junel Insigne, captain of the F/B Gem Ver 1, backed out of the meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte. With public officials like Secretary Cusi, who needs enemies? Is Secretary of Energy now an expert at evaluating collisions between sea vessels? Is he now lawyering for the Chinese government? What additional proof does Secretary Cusi need? For our fishing vessel to be completely wrecked and for people to die? The Chinese government itself left has admitted that their boat rammed our. Our Department of Defense, as well as the consistent accounts of our fishermen, also confirms this”, Sen. Hontiveros added.
June 18, 2019. Gem Ver 1 kitchen crew Richard Blaza went on to meet Sec. Manny Pinol in Manila to recount his version of the story. Accordingly, he was the only one awake as he was cooking rice at the kitchen when the incident happened.
Here are Sec. Piñol’s statements in an article published by ABS CBN News:
“Richard told me shortly before the incident, the captain was sleeping in his cabin, the captain’s cabin. And there were only 2 lights in the fishing boat – one in the captain’s cabin and one in the kitchen. When he saw the vessel coming towards their direction, he rushed to the captain and roused the captain from his sleep and told him that there was an incoming vessel. He said the captain tried to start the engine but it was too late, they were hit by the vessel. Shortly after the impact, he said the vessel actually slowed down, lighted the vessel and trained on the flashlights. Many of them were already in the water and they were asking for help but the Chinese vessel turned off lights and sped off and left the scene.”
Sec. Piñol also added that there should be an investigation to determine if the ramming was intentional or not.
When Sec. Piñol asked Blaza if believes the ramming was intentional, Blaza said, “Sir, maaring hindi kami nakita”.
May kabilisan ang takbo niya, kaya ginising ko na si kapitan at mga tao. Pinaggigising ko na ang mga kasama ko na mahahagip kami,
Four other crew confirmed his story:
Cirilo Escuterio: “Sumigaw ‘yung kasama namin na, ‘Oy, gumising kayo, may barkong parating at babanggain tayo.’ Sabay takbo sa loob ng higaan ng kapitan, sabay sabi, ‘Kap, start mo makina babanggain tayo ng barko.”
Joven Jacinto: “Noong nagsigawan na ang mga kasamahan ko, nakagising na ako. Pagmulat ng mata ko, nagsisigawan, nagtatakbuhan, naglundag na rin ako.”
Antonio Torres Jr: “Nagising ako, may sumisigaw, ‘Barko, barko, mababangga tayo ng barko.’ Bigla ako bumangon…tumakbo ako pababa, pagtingin ko pabangga na ‘yung barko sa hulihan namin.”
JP Gordiones: “Nasa loob ako ng kamarote, nakarinig lang po ako ng sigaw, sabi niya may barko na babangga, tumakbo po ako sa unahan.”-Rappler.com
In other news, Gem Ver 1 skipper Junel Insigne said he is saddened by President Duterte’s statement referring to their experience in Recto Bank.
“Nalulungkot po ako dun sa sinabi ni Presidente, na banggaan lang daw. Parang balewala lang sa kanya yung ganun. Dahil wala sigurong namatay kaya parang balewala lang. Paano po kung namatay kaming lahat?”, Insigne lamented.
Later in the afternoon, when Insigne learned the result of Richard Blaza’s meeting with Sec. Pinol, he defended still his side of the story. It is to be remembered that Blaza told Sec. Pinol,“Sir, maaring hindi kami nakita”.
Says Insigne, “May ilaw kami sa hulihan, doon po sa may taas ng amorote. Tsaka sa unahan may ilaw. Tsaka bago po yung battery namin. Maliwanag po yun. Kahit na milya o lima, kita po yan eh. Yan na nga ang sinasabi ko sa kanya eh. Baka pagdating nya doon iba-iba ang ang ano nya eh.”
Insigne’s claim was supported by one of his crew Marlon Roldan.
“Maliwanag talaga yung ilaw namin sa hulihan at sa unahan, dun sa gitna, May flasher pa nga”, Marlon Roldan said.
“Kitang-kita ko malakas talaga ang ilaw namin”, Limuel Gregorio added.
Aside from Insigne, Roldan, and Gregorio, Sen. Panfilo Lacson and Sen. Frank Drilon were also “broken hearted” with President Duterte’s statements.
Says Sen. Lacson, “The President broke his silence and left us heartbroken. He forgot to explore all resources available before exercising his last option of surrender. The Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) is one yet untapped weapon. I am not suggesting World War 3, but at least it can make China feel the balance of power in the West Philippine Sea.”
Sen. Drilon on the other hand said, “Let us not muddle the issue. Whether the ramming was intentional or accidental, what is in issue, and what is clear and admitted, is that the Chinese boat captain abandoned the Philippine fishermen in distress at sea. This violates China’s obligation under the UNCLOS to rescue those in distress at sea. This is the issue that should be addressed and the basis of China’s liability under international law and the UNCLOS”.
“The claim of Chinese Embassy that the Chinese boat left because of fear of being besieged by Ph boats in the vicinity is baloney and an outright and malicious lie. If there were indeed Philippine fishing boats in the vicinity, why did it take a Vietnamese vessel to rescue the 22 Filipinos in distress? And at least one hour after the incident?”, Drilon added.
From her detention cell, Sen. Laila De Lima also sent her take on the issue, saying that “Our very own leaders assaulting our very dignity as a people! Kaya pa ba natin ito? Ano pa ba dapat mangyari para matauhan na ang marami sa atin? Sampal ito sa kanilang mga itinuturing natin na mga pinuno”.
Published by ABS CBN News, De Lina further added, “The pro-China Duterte regime is had put at supporting the causes of the Filipino fishermen victimized by this latest act of bullying within our exclusive economic zone”, and that the “inutile Duterte” should step down”.
Meanwhile, in Rappler’s phone interview and text replies, Fe Dela Torre, the wife Felix Dela Torre, said it appears to her that the government is finding it hard to accept their story.
She said, ” Ipilit man po natin sa kanila ang katotohanan, mismong sila ang gumagawa ng lusot para maging mali kami. Bulag at bingi sila pagdating sa ating mga Pilipino. Hindi namin alam kung kinakampihan pa kami. Parang walang paninindigang maipagtanggol pa ba kami, maipaglaban pa po ba kami. Sa amin okay na rin sana na maayos, maibalik lang sa aming tamang hanapbuhay, pero yung isyu nila na sinasabihan na ng totoo pero hindi naniniwala – yun po yung masakit doon. Kung hindi sila umalerto, paano sila nakaligtas? Buhay ang pinag-uusapan. Alangan namang gusto ni Richard na sya lang ang makaligtas”.
June 19, 2019. Along with his crew, Gem Ver 1 Captain Junel Insigne changed tune and back pedalled his story after a 25-minute closed-door meeting with Agriculture Secretary Manny Pinol in his residence at San Jose, Occidental Mindoro. The meeting was accompanied with the presence of Philippine National Police’s Crowd Dispersal Unit in full battle gear.
Here are Junel Insigne’s statements in a press conference that followed after his meeting with Secretary Pinol:
“Naguguluhan po ako dahil, parang, pag-ano ko po, hindi ko po naano kung talagang bangga na po eh. Masama lang po talaga ang loob ko dahil iniwan po kami.. Humihingi din po ako ng paumanhin sa ating mahal na Presidente na hindi po pala ako pinatawag nya. Kundi po si Secretary Pinol po ang nagpatawag sa amin. Hindi po ako natuloy, umatras po ako, dahil masama po ang pakiramdam ko. Bilang Kapitan po, ang gusto ko po mapanagot po yung kapitan po ng.. yung lang po ang hihilingin ko sa ating mahal na Presidente.”
Insigne also asked for the government to take actions to make sure that only Filipinos shall be allowed to fish at Recto Bank.
According to GMA News, if there were any credible witness to the incident, it would be Richard Blaza, Gem Ver 1’s cook who is awake before the incident. He said, “Hindi ko po masasabi kung sinadya nila o ano, o aksidente lang.”
Secretary Piñol also offered some clarifications: He said, “I would like to qualify ha. Kasi baka parang lumalabas dito parang nagdedepensa kami. No. We would like everything to come out in the open. The truth. We are not, we are not slaves to anybody. We denounce the act of the Chinese vessel in abandoning the fishermen in distress. Under International Maritime Laws, that is illegal. Under human law, that is immoral.”
Sec. Piñol added, “..It put the President in a bad light. Para bang inisnab niya ang Presidente, eh wala naman invitation talaga. So hindi totoo yung balita na mayroong imbitasyon ang Pangulo na makipagusap sa kanila. This was a manufactured statement, By whom? I don’t know. Insigne admitted na medyo may mga statement siya na ayon sa kanya hindi niya alam na nasabi niya.”
After the press conference, together with Usec. Eduardo B. Gongona and BFAR Regional Director Elizer S. Salilig, Secretary Piñol handed to fishermen the government assistance consisting of 12 fiberglass reinforced plastic boats with engine, bottom-set gill nets, hook and lines, life vests and a sack of rice. It also included P45,000.00 (P25,000.00 from DA Agricultural Credit Policy Council as emergency cash assistance, P10,000.00 from DSWD plus scholarships for their children and two food packs, and P10,000.00 from Sec. Cusi of DOE and CORDS Region IV-B), plus livelihood projects from the Department of Agriculture Regional Office and DA-BFAR MIMAROPA.
Concurrently, in her Facebook account, Congresswoman Josephine Ramirez-Sato of the Lone District of Occidental Mindoro repeated the fact that Recto Bank is within the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Philippines which should be protected for Filipino fishermen.
“Ang Recto Bank ay Exclusive Economic Zone ng Pilipinas. Dapat iyan ay reserved para sa ating mangingisda at sa ating mga kababayan”, she said.
She also echoed her sentiments that she is embracing the welfare of fishermen.
“Buo po ang ating suporta sa aming mga mangingisda. Kaya’t kasama po nila kami sa paghiling na magkaroon, sa lalong madaling panahon, ing impartial marine inquiry. Ang pinoprotektahan natin dito ay ang interes ng ating mangingisda at interes po ng ating bansa”, she added.
In other development, National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana also changed his stand on the issue. In a report by ABS CBN News, he said he now believes that Chinese vessel did not intentionally ram Gem Ver 1 based on new evidences presented by the circumstances. He however remains firm in condemning Chinese vessel abandoning the 22 fishermen in need of help. Secretary Lorenzana also shared that it was agreed upon in the Cabinet meeting that only Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles are auhtorized to speak to the public regarding the issue.
June 20, 2019. China calls for joint-investigation on the Recto Bank ramming incident between Chinese and Filipino fishing boat. The call was made by Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang in Beijing.
Lu Kang said China “attaches great importance to friendly relations with the Philippines and safety of personnel at sea, regardless of nationality. We will continue to investigate the incident thoroughly and communicate with the Philippine side via bilateral channels”.
“To find a proper solution, we suggest a joint investigation at an early date so the two sides can exchange respective initial findings and properly handle the matter through friendly consultations based on mutually-recognized investigation results”, Lu Kang added in a press conference.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra also made the same proposition with China hoping that “this could be done jointly with the Chinese side, so whatever facts would be established would be mutually acceptable.
June 21, 2019. While Sec. Guevarra and Presidential Spokesperson Panelo, along with President Duterte is open to a joint-inquiry, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin is not in the same boat with them.
Sec. Locsin strongly dismissed the proposal with a tweet reacting to an ANC News interview with international affairs analyst Aaron Jed Rabena who suggested that “China should allow access to interview their fishermen or vice versa” in case the joint investigation pushes through.
In his tweet, Sec. Locsin said, “Who the fuck is this guy?“.
According to his Linkedin account, Rabena received his PhD in International Relations from Shandong University in China. His area of interest include strategic studies, geopolitics, East Asian international relations, political risk, Chinese politics and foreign policy. He previously served as Senior Lecturer at the Asian /center in Up and was a Visiting Fellow at the China Institute of International Studies in Beijing. He is also an alumnus of the East-West Center in the US.
The same idea did not sit well with former Former Affairs Secretary Albert Del Romulo.
“Can we please not insult the intelligence of our people?”, Del Rosario added.
Hours later after issuing his statement, Del Rosario was held by authorities at Hong Kong International Airport. He was travelling to Hong Kong on a diplomatic passport for a board meeting.
His lawyer, Atty. Ann Marie Corominas, confirmed this with Philstar.com. It is still not clear however why Del Rosario was denied entry.
Meanwhile, Vice President Leni Robredo visited the fishermen to listen to their story. She first talked with crew members at the house of boat owner Felix Dela Torre in San Roque, then proceeded to see Junel Insigne.
According to GMA News Online, VP Robredo gave each crew P50,000.00 which was tapped from Office of the Vice President’s Angat Buhay Program.
Simultaneously, Congresswoman Josephine Ramirez-Sato continue to make a stand for Occidental Mindoro fishermen since she became aware of their plight in Recto Bank.
“We, the constituents of Occidental Mindoro are supporting the the cause of our fishermen. And we are asking that marine inquiry be held at the soonest time possible, just like what our local fishermen really want”, she said.
In a media briefing at San Jose, Occidental Mindoro after VP Robredo’s dialogue with fishermen, Cong. Ramirez-Sato accentuated the need for more patrol boats. She said the Province of Occidental Mindoro does not have enough equipment to protect and defend the fishermen.
Living up to her moniker as Tiger Lady of House of Representatives, Cong. Ramirez-Sato flagged down China’s attempt for a joint-investigation.
“We will not allow China to initiate any probe on the matter”, she resolutely told everyone in the media briefing.
In spite of everything that Occidental Mindoro fishermen went through, Cong. Ramirez-Sato remains adamant in throwing her support for them.
“We stand squarely behind our fishermen. Not only for Occidental Mindoro, but for the whole Philippines. Our fishermen will be telling all the moment they are summoned and allowed to testify in the inquiry”, she added.
Back in Manila, in an article published by Philippine News Agency, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin announced on Twitter that Philippines and China will conduct investigation separately.
“There will be no joint investigation. China and Philippines will conduct their respective investigations. DFA will act on my view and no one else’s. I talked to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea; Palace supports me. That’s that. I listen only to the DND and the NSA. This is a matter beyond civilian agencies’ remit and falls within the DFA’s, DND’s and NSA’s”, he said.
Erstwhile, in a Malacañang news briefing, Spokesman Salvador Panelo hits back against government critics for using the Recto Bank incident to show “nationalism”.
These were his statements:
“The Reed Bank incident is being dressed with misplaced emotionalism and pretended nationalism by those who are bent on (politicizing) an otherwise ordinary navigation incident into an international fracas. They hope to succeed in getting the approbation of the nation on a misguided theory that the Administration is pursuing a foreign policy of subservience to China, a belief that is both wrong and unacceptable. The perception that my pointing our of certain circumstances surround the Reed Bank incident previously known to us, creates the impression that I’m acting as China’s counsel, is sheer non squitor, as wall as a shallow analysis of my examination of the incident. We maintain our stand that regardless of the nature of the allision, we condemn the uncivilized and inhuman act of abandoning the Filipino fishermen, thereby putting them into the precipice of extinction after their vessel submerged. There must be accountability and compensation,”