No justice for fisherfolk one year after Recto Bank hit-and-run â Pamalakaya
In this June 14, 2019 photo, crewmen of F/B Gem-Ver 1 board the Philippine Navy's BRP Tausug after being rescued.
The STAR/Walter Bollozos

No justice for fisherfolk one year after Recto Bank hit-and-run — Pamalakaya

Bella Perez-Rubio (Philstar.com) - June 9, 2020 - 12:24pm

MANILA, Philippines — A fisher group demanded justice for victims of Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea on the anniversary of a hit-and-run incident at Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea. 

A year ago today, a Chinese vessel rammed and sunk an anchored F/B Gem-Ver1 vessel with 22 Filipino fishermen aboard. It then abandoned the sunken boat’s passengers who were left in the ocean for hours until Vietnamese fishermen came to their rescue. 

The victims were residents of the municipality of San Jose in Mindoro Occidental. 

The group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said in a statement on Tuesday that “not even a single perpetrator has been held to account” since the incident.  

Pamalakaya added that the vessel’s owner spent around P2 million for the ship's repair, only for it to be destroyed by Typhoon Ursula in December — a mere month after it returned to water. 

“The socio-economic lives of the 22 affected fishermen [has not returned] to normal since then. [Worse], China is still present in our territorial waters triggering fear and intimidation among the Filipino fishers," Fernando Hicap, the group’s national chairperson said. 

China advances 'unchecked' 

Hicap added that China’s “territorial aggression” has persisted even amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.

He slammed President Rodrigo Duterte for what he called a failure to protect the Filipino fisherfolk against Chinese harassment.  

“We can't still fish in peace in the West Philippine Sea. Our safety and security [in] traditional fishing grounds [has] been undermined, as the Duterte government adopted the surrender policy to the aggressors" Hicap said. 

In May, government-funded Chinese Academy of Sciences launched two research stations on Fiery Cross (Kagitingan) and Subi Reefs in Spratly Islands to “help scientists expand their research into deep sea ecology, geology, environment, material sciences and marine energy,” state-run Xinhua reported.

It added that the research stations would also be "monitoring ecological and seismic changes in key regions of the South China Sea.” 

Manila claims the Subi Reef and Fiery Cross, which are 100 km and 24 km off Palawan, respectively, as part of the West Philippine Sea.

These areas are two of Beijing's “big three” militarized islands in the Spratlys. 

China transformed Subi Reef into a fortified airbase in 2017.

Its state-sponsored think tank also has a research center installed in Mischief Reef, which is considered a part of Philippine territory. 

Hundreds of Chinese ships have also been reported  in the area of Pag-asa island which is under the jurisdiction of the municipality of Kalayaan in Palawan. It is also one of the biggest features occupied by the Philippines in the Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana last week said he does not believe there is a threat of attack on Pag-asa or any of the other eight Spratly islands under Philippine control. He added that the department is not planning to bolster the defense of the island. 

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