Local fishermen pull F/B GemVer 1 to the shores of San Jose, Occidental Mindoro after being rammed by a Chinese vessel near Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea.
The STAR/Walter Bollozos
Chinese fishers not allowed in Recto Bank, Palace says
Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - June 17, 2019 - 3:50pm

MANILA, Philippines — While Malacañang appears to be wary of issuing statements on the sinking of a Filipino boat near Recto Bank, the presidential spokesman is certain that Chinese fishers should not be in the area.

The 22 Filipino crewmen of fishing boat F/B GemVir 1 said a Chinese vessel rammed their boat at midnight on June 9 and immediately left the scene after the collision.

Asked if Chinese fishermen are allowed to conduct fishing activities in Recto Bank, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said :"No."

"Siyempre hindi pero hindi pa natin alam kung nagfi-fish sila doon (Of course not, but we do not know yet if they are fishing there)," Panelo said in a press briefing Monday.

Panelo pointed out the conflicting versions of the accounts of the Filipino fishermen and the Chinese side.

"Basta teritoryo natin nandun sila mali 'yun syempre (If it is our territory and they are there that is wrong)," he said.

Policy on sovereignty unchanged

Malacañang once again justified the silence of President Rodrigo Duterte since news broke out about the collision near undisputed Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea, which is within Philippine exclusive economic zone.

According to Panelo, the president is just waiting for the final results of the investigation. He also insisted that the position of Malacañang has not changed.

"As a matter of policy, we always say that we will not allow an assault of our sovereignty. That has not changed," Panelo said.

"Sovereignty is never a subject of negotiation," he added.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier condemned the actions of the Chinese ship for abandoning the Filipino fishermen "to the mercy of the elements."

Lorenzana's statement issued June 12 indicated that the Filipino vessel was anchored when it was hit by the Chinese trawler.

A Vietnamese fishing vessel was in the vicinity when the collision happened and rescued the Filipino fishermen almost six hours after their watercraft sank.

"However, we condemn in the strongest terms the cowardly action of the suspected Chinese fishing vessel and its crew for abandoning the Filipino crew. This is not the expected action from a responsible and friendly people," Lorenzana said.

The Chinese Embassy in Manila, on the other hand, claimed that Chinese trawler Yuemaobinyu 42212 was "suddenly besieged" by seven to eight Filipino boats.

"The Chinese captain tried to rescue the Filipino fishermen, but was afraid of being besieged by other Filipino fishing boats. Therefore, having confirmed the fishermen from the Filipino boat were rescued on board of other Filipino fishing boats, 42212 sailed away from the scene," the Chinese Embassy said in a statement released June 15.

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As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: September 24, 2019 - 9:43am

Updates in the aftermath of the sinking of a Filipino fishing boat by a suspected Chinese trawler.

September 24, 2019 - 9:43am

A philanthropist from Shanghai has turned over a commercial fishing vessel to replace F/B Gem-Ver 1, which was damaged and sank in the the Recto Bank allision in June, columnist and special envoy Ramon Tulfo says in a press release. 

"The fishing boat, christened as F/B Pengyou, replaced the F/B Gem-Ver 1 that was sunk at Recto Bank in the South China Sea," the Office of the Special Envoy for Public Diplomacy to China says. Recto Bank is part of the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

Tulfo says Xue Chengbuao, a tycoon from Shanghai, turned over the the boat in a ceremony in San Jose, Mindoro Occidental on Sunday.

"F/B Pengyou is 17 meters long and 1.6 meters wide. It weighs 10.6 tons and has a Fuso engine with 160 hp," Tulfo's office also says.

"Pengyou" is Mandarin Chinese for friend.

July 8, 2019 - 1:04pm

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo says there is no contradiction in the Philippine Coast Guard's report that the June 9 Recto Bank incident is a “very serious maritime casualty” and President Rodrigo Duterte’s earlier statement that the incident was a "little maritime incident."

"It's serious in the sense that when you leave our countrymen there then that's a serious matter," Panelo explains, adding that even if it is a serious matter "you cannot blow that and make it into an international crisis."

He adds the Philippines will "definitely" seek accountability from China over the allision that sank F/B Gem-Ver 1.

He says China will be the one to decide on how it should deal with or make accountable the crew of the Chinese vessel that left 22 Filipino fishermen after the allision.

June 27, 2019 - 3:10pm

Vice President Leni Robredo says Senate President Tito Sotto's remark on allowing Chinese to fish within the Philippine EEZ as "the fish could be coming from China" is a bit insensitive, especially to Filipino fishermen whose rights are violated.

"Tingin ko, medyo insensitive siya dahil mayroong mga [mangingisda] tayong na-violate iyong kanilang mga karapatan. Para sa akin, at this point, kailangan nating siguruhin na maramdaman noong mga mangingisda na hindi sila iniwan. Maramdaman nila na tayong lahat nagtutulong-tulong para makahanap sila ng hustisya sa sinapit nila," she says.

June 26, 2019 - 8:30am

Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio in a statement says the Philippine government cannot allow Chinese fishermen to fish within the country's exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea as it violates the Constitution.

"The Constitution mandates, 'The State shall protect the nation's marine wealth in its exclusive economic zonem and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens,'" he says.

"This means that the Philippine Government cannot allow Chinese fishermen to fish in our EEZ in the West Philippine Sea. This also means that the 'use and enjoyment' of the fish in our EEZ is reserved exclusively to Filipinos."

 

June 25, 2019 - 8:34pm

More than 200 students, faculty and alumni of the University of the Philippines Visayas – College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences in Miagao, Iloilo have signed a petition condemning the allision at the Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea "and the subsequent downplaying of the incident by the Duterte administration."

"We demand full accountability not only on the crew of the Chinese vessel for endangering the lives of the 22 Filipino fisherfolk, but also on the Duterte administration for betraying the trust of our fisherfolk, the constituents whom this government should be protecting and serving," they say in an online petition shared on social media.

The Philippines has filed a diplomatic protest with China over the incident but President Rodrigo Duterte and his officials have played the allision down, calling it a "little maritime incident."

Duterte on Monday night said he is sorry that the crew of the F/B Gem-Ver who were left behind by the Chinese vessel after the allision feel "belittled." He explained that China also considers Recto Bank with its jurisdiction despite it being within the Philippines EEZ. 

"Seeing how the government treats the fisheries sector and the fisherfolk, we are inclined to believe that this administration puts the interest of the Chinese first rather than making the Filipino fishers and WPS a priority," the petitioners say.

"Our fisherfolk are among the poorest and most vulnerable sector in the society. Now, more than ever, is the time to stand in solidarity with them and condemn this blatant turncoatism by the Duterte administration. Let us translate our anger into concrete collective action. Hold Duterte and China accountable," they say.

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