PCG: Collision an accident, not deliberate ramming

Ghio Ong - The Philippine Star
PCG: Collision an accident, not deliberate ramming
Handout photo taken on Tuesday and released by the Philippine Coast Guard yesterday shows personnel retrieving the body of one of three Filipino fishermen who died in Infanta, Pangasinan after their boat was rammed by a foreign oil tanker near Panatag or Scarborough Shoal.

MANILA, Philippines — The ramming of a suspected foreign crude oil tanker on a fishing boat that killed three Filipino fishermen was an accident, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) declared yesterday.

“As far as the initial information we have right now, we can say it was not deliberate,” said PCG spokesman for the West Philippine Sea Commodore Jay Tarriela.

He also disputed speculations that the incident was done by Chinese vessels. At the same time, he emphasized the incident happened 180 nautical miles off the town of Agno in Pangasinan, not in the vicinity of Bajo de Masinloc that the agency reported earlier.

The bigger ship, which Tarriela did not mention pending further investigation, could not have noticed FFB Dearyn.

It was dark and inclement weather was observed at the time the ship – which was initially named as MT Pacific Anna registered under the flag of the Marshall Islands – rammed FFB Dearyn at 4:20 a.m. last Oct. 2, according to PCG’s Pangasinan station head Commander Alexander Corpuz.

He added the PCG has yet to confirm the identity of the commercial vessel that hit the Filipino fishing boat.

Corpuz also confirmed the area of the incident was where huge commercial ships pass through, and that commercial fishing vessels like FFB Dearyn could catch fish up to 12 nautical miles outside the country’s territorial waters.

He also revealed some operators and owners of fishing vessels lack coordination with government agencies on where they would fish.

“In my assumption, the operators lack coordination with our agencies like BFAR (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources),” he said.

Fishing vessel operators should disclose the location where they would install “payaw” or markers of their fishing grounds so the government would inform bigger ships, which in turn would plot on their navigational charts these areas and avoid them while they sail, he explained.

Corpuz said the PCG would also find out if the payaw has been installed well before the incident.

The commercial vessel should be held liable for not performing search and rescue operations on distressed boats and crew pursuant to the International Convention on the Safety of Life at Sea or SOLAS, Corpuz added.

Meanwhile, PCG Commandant Admiral Artemio Abu said that the agency has written to the government of Marshall Islands to get information about MT Pacific Anna. It has also informed the government of Singapore where the tanker would supposedly go, he added.

FFB Dearyn captain Dexter Laudencia and crewmen Romeo Mejico and Benedicto Olandria died after drowning, while 11 other crewmembers survived.

Appeal for aid

A widow of one of the three Filipino fishermen who died appealed for financial assistance from the government.

In a radio interview, Melanie Mejico, wife of Romeo, said that her family needs help as she was left with their five children, including a nine-month old infant and children ages two, 12 and 18.

“I hope that the (the government) can help us. I still have an infant. My eldest is 22 (years old) but he is already married,” Mejico said. “Our house needs to be repaired, that’s the reason why he (Romeo) was forced to sail but he plans to stop once we have enough savings to start a small business but since he does not earn enough from fishing, we have no savings.”

She noted that a representative from the BFAR visited the families of the three victims but only interviewed them.

“We were interviewed but no assistance was given,” Mejico noted.

According to Mejico, the remains of her husband and the two other victims lie in their respective homes in Barangay Calapandayan in Subic, Zambales — Bella Cariaso

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