Junel Insigne, the captain of F/B Gem-Vir 1, earlier said President Rodrigo Duterte should have acknowledged that the Chinese vessel intentionally rammed their boat.
The STAR/Walter Bollozos
Noting boat captain's 'turnaround' after Piñol meet, Pamalakaya demands transparency
(Philstar.com) - June 20, 2019 - 12:00pm

MANILA, Philippines — A fisherfolk group Thursday called for transparency after the captain of the boat sank by a Chinese vessel made a "complete turnaround" in his position following a closed-door meeting with Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol.

Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas said Filipino boat captain Junel Isigne seemingly “wavered” in his initial stance that the allision in Recto Bank was intentional and not an accident.

Pamalakaya also noted the presence of police in full battle gear on the day of the meeting on Wednesday. The police surrounded the residence of Felix dela Torre, owner of the Philippine fishing boat.

READ: Boat captain dismayed over Duterte's remarks on Recto Bank collision

“We demand an explanation and transparency from Piñol on what actually happened inside that house that led to the complete turnaround on the position of the boat captain on the incident that happened on the night of June 9,” the fisherfolk group said in a statement.

Piñol, in a radio interview with DZMM on Thursday morning, said that when he asked Insigne if it is true that the Chinese vessel rammed into their boat, the captain “wavered” and said that he was “not sure.”

Media reports noted that Insigne seemed to be more subdued after the meeting with the agriculture chief.

The agriculture secretary also said the fishermen want to hold the crew of the Chinese vessel accountable for the act of abandoning them.

READ: Binay: 'Little maritime accident' tag diminishes Filipinos' testimony

Boats given for municipal waters only

On Wednesday, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources gave the fishermen 11 30-foot fiberglass boats with complete accessories, including engine and nets.

Piñol also committed to extending assistance to the fishermen through the Agricultural Credit Policy Council which would release P25,000 to each of the 22 fishermen under the Survival Response Loan Program.

“These boats are not designed for WPS. Pang municipal waters muna while waiting for the repair,” Piñol said in the DZMM interview.

Pamalakaya, however, said the government seemed to be telling the fishermen to “not fish at Recto Bank or in any part of the West Philippine Sea where China is.”

“The boats given are an insult to the fishermen and cover-up to the uselessness of the government,” Fernando Hicap, Pamalakaya national chairperson, said.

“Aside from performing its job as a henchman of the administration, Piñol is a one true master manipulator for effectively neutralizing the victimized fishermen as well as for putting words into their mouths,” he added.

Hicap said the agriculture secretary “forced” the fishermen of F/B Gem-Vir 1 to settle “in behalf of China by using intimidation, deception and public-funded government assistance to pacify their anger.”

He added Piñol should be made accountable for doing damage control “in the name of absolving the Chinese perpetrators.”

Piñol: Unfair to accuse government intimidation

The agriculture chief meanwhile said it is “unfair” to accuse the government that they are intimidating the fishermen.

He clarified at DZMM that he was not aware nor did he give any instruction to the police to surround the venue of the meeting.

“Let me just correct the impression that there was any attempt on the part of the government or this administration to intimidate the fishermen to change their story or come up with a lie that is favorable to [the] government,” Piñol told DZMM.

“That is unfair to well-meaning people in government right now,” he added. — Kristine Joy Patag with a report from The STAR/Louise Maureen Simeon

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