In this June 29, 2020 photo, fishers call for justice for Filipino fishing crew still missing after a collision with a Chinese cargo ship on Sunday.
Pamalakaya/Release
Fisherfolk group: Ship in collision with fishing vessel should have stayed to help
Bella Perez-Rubio (Philstar.com) - June 29, 2020 - 1:30pm

MANILA, Philippines — Fisherfolk group Pamalakaya on Monday condemned the collision in Philippine waters as a "hit-and-run", saying the Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship should have helped the crew of the fishing boat involved.

"It was a crystal clear hit-and-run, as the 14 fishing crew went missing. The Chinese personnel of the ship could have rescued the fishing crew when the fishing vessel capsized, but they didn't. A clear indication that they intentionally withdrew after the collision," Pamalakaya national chairperson Fernando Hicap said.

Twelve fishermen and two passengers were aboard fishing vessel FV Liberty 5 when it collided with Hong Kong-flagged cargo vessel MV Vienna Wood at around 1 a.m. on Sunday, the Philippine Coast Guard said.

The Filipino fishing boat came from Cagayan de Tawi-Tawi and was on its way to the Navotas fishport in Metro Manila when the incident happened. The foreign vessel, meanwhile, departed from Subic, Zambales and was going to Australia.

"We call on the authorities to expedite the search and rescue operations for the missing fishing crew [who], as much as possible, must be returned to their families safe. Moreover, the owner and captain of the Chinese cargo ship should be held accountable for endangering the lives of our fisherfolks," the fishers' group said.

The Philippine Coast Guard launched a search operation after receiving a distress call from the captain of MV Vienna Wood about the collision on Sunday.

The PCG at 7:30 a.m. on Monday deployed utility aircraft BN Islander and helicopter Airbus H145 for the operations.

PCG patrol boat BRP Boracay is also searching the area off Mamburao, Occidental Mindoro.

Recto Bank hit-and-run, one year later

The fisher group also linked President Rodrigo Duterte's perceived inaction over a previous incident involving Filipino fishers and a Chinese vessel in Philippine territorial waters to what it said was an "apparent disregard by foreign vessels [for] the lives and safety of Filipino fisherfolks."

Former Associate Justice Antonio Carpio previously criticized the president for having a policy of appeasement towards China, an assertion that Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. rejected. He said Philippine policy in the West Philippine Sea has been "the opposite of appeasement."

Hicap highlighted that around this time last year, a Chinese vessel rammed into a Filipino fishing boat, leaving 22 fishermen floating at sea for hours in the vicinity of Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea.

Vietnamese fishermen rescued the 22 Filipino crew members of fishing boat Gem-Ver. While the owner of the Chinese ship had apologized for the collision, there have been no cases filed.

The chief executive downplayed the incident, calling it a "little maritime accident".

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque during Monday's palace briefing downplayed this new incident, saying in Filipino that it was "just a collision" and that it would not affect ASEAN relations.

"One year of no justice [after Recto Bank] and yet another tragic incident [has] happened" Hicap said. — with reports from Patricia Lourdes Viray

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