Each of the 22 Filipino crew members of a fishing boat that was rammed by a Chinese fishing vessel near Recto Bank last week would receive a fiberglass boat provided by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).
In a report to the Department of Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol, BFAR Executive Director Eduardo Gongona disclosed that the fiberglass boats they would provide would have complete accessories, including nets and engine.
As immediate assistance to the fishermen, Piñol said BFAR gave them 22 sacks of rice. The Agriculture chief also revealed that it was BFAR that welcomed the fishermen when they arrived Friday night in Occidental Mindoro aboard a navy vessel.
These fiberglass boats would provide much help. However, let us not forget that these fishermen are seeking justice for what they suffered.
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Senator Risa Hontiveros described China’s denial that a hit-and-run incident took place at the West Philippine Sea as preposterous.
The senator believes China is shielding the Chinese crew from any responsibility and transferring the fault and accountability to the distraught Filipino fishermen.
She said the claim that the Chinese ship accidentally hit and sank our boat and that it failed to rescue our fishermen since they were afraid of being besieged by seven or eight other Filipino vessels was ridiculous.
Hontiveros also questioned that if there were seven or eight other Filipino boats in the area, why did the fishermen wait for several hours floating in the waters before being rescued by the Vietnamese?
The fact remains that some Chinese vessels have long been trespassing on our seas and harassing our fishermen. The Chinese Coast Guard has been driving our fishermen away from their traditional fishing grounds. These are well documented, and part of a case filed before the International Criminal Court recently.
President Duterte broke his silence and called the incident a little maritime accident between two vessels. He said we should wait for the result of an investigation and give the other party the right to be heard.
Surprisingly, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. seemingly turned to the United States for assistance when he said the US must use its power to uphold the sovereign rights of states in Southeast Asia for the freedom of navigation to mean anything.
Earlier, the US Embassy in Manila advised the Philippines and China to refrain from using force to stress their maritime claims.
However, can the US do anything to help settle the issue?
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Editor’s Note: Robert B. Roque Jr. is a veteran journalist who started out as a correspondent for Manila Bulletin’s tabloid TEMPO in 1983. In 1989, at age 27, he rose to become the youngest associate editor of a newspaper of national circulation. In mid-2000, he took the helm of the paper as its editor until his voluntary retirement in 2012. He currently writes a syndicated column for TEMPO, Remate, and Hataw newspapers, the online news site Beyond Deadlines, and now for THEPHILBIZNEWS.COM. A former journalism lecturer at the Faculty of Arts and Letters of the University of Santo Tomas from 1992 to 2002, Roque is also an active member of the Lions Clubs International, the largest service club organization in the world, having served as head of the Philippine Lions (council chairperson) in Lion Year 2011-2012. His column appearing here regularly will be written in Filipino on Tuesdays and in English on Thursdays.