This June 28, 2020 photo shows capsized Philippine fishing vessel Liberty 5 after its collision with Hong Kong-flagged cargo vessel MV Vienna Wood. The Philippine Coast Guard is still conducting search and rescue operations for the 12 fishermen and two passengers aboard the fishing boat.
Hontiveros to government: Don't downplay Mindoro coast 'hit-and-run' incident
Bella Perez-Rubio ( - June 30, 2020 - 12:16pm

MANILA, Philippines — Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday urged the government not to downplay the recent maritime collision between a Filipino fishing boat and a foreign cargo ship on Philippine waters.

"Fourteen of our Filipino fishermen are missing. Our priority should be to find them, fully investigate, and not to further protect China's interests," Hontiveros said.

Following reports of the collision between a Hong Kong-flagged cargo vessel MV Vienna Wood and the now-missing 12 Filipino fishermen and two passengers aboard fishing boat FV Liberty 5, Malacañang on Monday said the incident was "just a collision" that would not affect Philippine-Chinese relations.

Hontiveros, however, called the incident a hit-and-run — echoing the sentiments of fisherfolk group Pamalakaya who on Monday said the foreign cargo ship should have helped those aboard the fishing boat.

"The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and other similar treaties clearly mandate that after a collision, ships must render assistance to the other ship and its crew and passengers. What happened was that they collided with our countrymen and left them there with no mercy," the senator said in a mix of Filipino and English.

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

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.

As of this writing, there is no indication that anyone onboard the Filipino ship has been found.

"We shouldn't soft-pedal these incidents when we know this is not the first time that Chinese vessels have put Filipinos in danger," Hontiveros said.

Repercussions of downplaying the Recto Bank incident

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, no cases have been filed.

President Rodrigo Duterte downplayed the incident, calling it a "little maritime accident".

Pamalakaya on Monday linked the chief executive's perceived inaction on the Recto Bank incident 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.

Hontiveros highlighted that, even amid the COVID-19 crisis, China has been making moves to bolster its military presence in parts of Philippine territorial waters.

The senator urged the government to "make China accountable for its continuing abuses, including the building of illegal 'stations' in the West Philippine Sea, particularly at the Zamora and Kagitingan Reefs, in the middle of the pandemic."

She added that "the destruction that China has wrought on the Philippines' reef ecosystems has amounted to P200 billion worth of damages."

Hontiveros also called on the PCG to "to leave no water or land unchecked in their search, rescue, and investigation."

"I appeal to the government to commit that we will be able to return these Filipino fishermen to their families as soon as possible...let's prioritize the protection and safety of Filipinos and our fisherfolk before the feelings of China," she said in a mix of Filipino and English.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: July 2, 2020 - 11:33am

The Philippine Coast Guard deploys two aerial assets for aerial search at the vicinity waters of Occidental Mindoro for 14 missing Filipinos.

The coast guard activates the mission to rescue 12 missing fishermen and two passengers aboard fishing vessel FV Liberty 5, which collided with Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship MV Vienna Wood early Sunday.

"MV Vienna Wood departed from Subic, Zambales going to Australia, while FV Liberty 5 departed from Cagayan de Tawi-Tawi going to Navotas Fish Port, Metro Manila when the maritime incident occurred," the PCG says.

July 2, 2020 - 11:29am

The Philippine Coast Guard says the 14 missing fishermen and passengers of FV Liberty 5 might have been trapped under the capsized fishing boat.

The coast guard says he depth of the vicinity waters is approximately 2,000 meters while technical divers may only reach 100 meters depth. Search and rescue operations of BRP Boracay, BRP Malapascua and MCS 3009 are still ongoing.

"We are currently waiting for updates from our deployed teas. We are also coordinating with PCG Station - Batangas to provide more details," the coast guard says in a message to reporters.

June 30, 2020 - 3:23pm

Fisherfolk group Pamalakaya says the initial report of the Philippine Coast Guard is enough to sue Hong Kong-flagged MV Vienna Wood.

Initial report from the coast guard revealed that the Chinese cargo vessel did not make any effort to rescue the 12 fishermen and two passengers who went missing after the boat collision.

"The PCG report says it all; despite the ship being in compliant with the navigational standards and capable of rescuing the 14 fishing crews, they left the helpless fishers to uncertainties," Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap says.

June 30, 2020 - 10:39am

Vice Admiral George Ursabia Jr., commandant of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), says initial investigation showed that poor visibility in the area and poor sea condition due to strong southwest monsoon or habagat caused the maritime incident between MV Vienna Wood and FV Liberty 5.

The PCG, however, is also looking into other factors such as incompetence of the crew of the offending vessel, especially the one on watch at the time.

According to Ursabia, MV Vienna Wood stopped and remained in the area after the collision but did nit deploy a small boat to provide assistance to the 14 Filipinos aboard the capsized fishing boat.

June 29, 2020 - 9:26am

Fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) call for justice for the 12 Filipino fishermen and two passengers after a Hong Kong-flagged cargo vessel collided into their fishing vessel early Sunday.

Pamalakaya condemned the collision in the country's territorial waters, comparing the incident to the ramming and sinking of fishing boat Gem-Ver by a Chinese vessel near Recto Bank last year.

"We call on the authorities to expedite the search and rescue operations for the missing fishing crew and as much as possible, must be returned to their families safe. Moreover, the Chinese cargo ship should be held accountable for endangering the lives of our fisherfolks," Pamalakaya says in a statement.


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