On June 9, 2019, Filipino fishing boat GemVer 1 sank after being rammed by a Chinese vessel near Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea. The offending vessel abandoned the Filipino boat with 22 crew members, leaving them to the "mercy of the elemencts", the Department of National Defense earlier said.
The STAR/Walter Bollozos, file
Chinese ship that sank GemVer possibly part of maritime militia — report
Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - October 17, 2019 - 10:57am

MANILA, Philippines — Tracking the moves of the Chinese vessel that sank Philippine fishing boat GemVer 1 would suggest that it was more than just a commercial fishing ship, according to a think tank.

Washington-based Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) reported that Yuemaobinyu 42212 turned off its Automatic Identification System (AIS) at the time of the collision with GemVer 1 near Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea in June.

The signal of the Chinese ship disappeared on April 26 and was only detected again in June 13 as it entered Bohe Port in China's Guangdong province, a few days after the collision with the Philippine fishing boat.

"When ships 'go dark,' as Yuemaobinyu 42212 did after leaving port on April 26, it indicates that vessel operators may have switched off their transponders to avoid detection, which makes missing AIS signals an important clue when tracking illicit activities," AMTI said.

The report, however, noted that the Chinese vessel's AIS transponder often cannot communicate with satellite-based receivers.

Yuemaobinyu 42212 might not have been tracked between April 26 and June 13 when it went far from shore as its transponder was only designed for smaller vessels not transiting international waters.

The AMTI also looked into the records of Yuemaobinyu 42212 and found that it is registered to Bohe Port in Maoming City, Guangdong province. 

Based on Chinese public reports, a maritime militia unit has also been established in the Dianbai district of Maoming City.

"The unit operates from Bohe Port, where Yuemaobinyu 42212 is based, and where fishing vessels are conscripted for paramilitary exercises in preparation for maritime combat," the report read.

The think tank noted that the same vessel, which might be previously named Yuedianyu 42212, was previously used for government-backed fisheries research in the South China Sea.

As the Chinese ship supposedly changed its name, it also used a different Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number assigned to individual vessels.

"The seemingly renamed Yuemaobinyu 42212 is now using a different MMSI, but the months-long overlap is yet another potentially telling data point in the vessel’s history," AMTI reported.

"These facts do not prove that the 42212 is part of the maritime militia. They do, however, strongly suggest that it does not operate solely as a commercial fishing ship, which raises the question of whether the collision with the GemVer was intentional," it added.

Following the Recto Bank collision, the Chinese vessel has stopped broadcasting its AIS shortly after reentering Bohe Port in June 14. It was again detected in September 22 from outside the Shidao port in China's Shandong Peninsula.

While the owner of the Chinese vessel had apologized in August, the 22 Filipino fishermen affected by the incident have yet to be compensated.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the Filipino fishermen should file an insurance claim for them to be properly compensated.

"You have to file an insurance claim and then let the process proceed. There are protocols. The insurance company will not just give them compensation, there has to be a claim," Panelo said in September.

ASIA MARITIME TRANSPARENCY INITIATIVE CHINA GEMVER 1 RECTO BANK SOUTH CHINA SEA WEST PHILIPPINE SEA
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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