Ship did not ram Philippine boatBy Matikas Santos
MANILA, Philippines – The unidentified cargo vessel only passed near the Philippines fishing boat and did not ram it, contrary to earlier reports, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Tuesday.
The incident, which left one fisherman dead, three injured, and four others missing, occurred on June 20 around 78 nautical miles or 144 kilometers off Bolinao, Pangasinan.
Gazmin said in a press briefing that Edemio Balmores, captain of the fishing boat “Axl John,” was interviewed by Navy personnel in Bolinao and stated that due to strong waves, which caused their boat to take in water, they had to tie their boat to a “payaw” or artificial fish sanctuary.
The strong waves however caused their boat to break free and then later “when the ship came, Balmores claims [it] passed near them but did not actually ram them. However it also did not rescue them,” Gazmin said quoting the report from Navy personnel.
As to the identity of the ship “they only noticed the marking “Hong Kong” with Chinese characters below it at the back portion of the ship,” Gazmin said.
Major nautical highway
Navy Admiral Alexander Pama said that the area where the incident occurred was a nautical highway with many ships passing through.
He said that the Coast Watch Station in Zambales recorded nearly 90 ships that passed the area within a span of 24 hours of the incident.
Pama said that based on their investigation “we are looking at no less than 90 ships and at this point we are not discounting anybody based on a lot of factors.”
The exact ship that hit the fishing boat was difficult to ascertain because some ships could have changed their course and speed after initial report to the Coast Watch Station which asks for the speed and course of every ship that appears in its radar.
He said that it was also still unclear where the actual incident occurred because the fishermen do not have equipment for them to determine their exact location.
Gazmin said that they are still working to narrow down which ships passed by the area where the fishermen were.
“Were still checking other sources of data,” Pama said. “We are in touch with other international maritime groups” to check for other ships that passed through the area, he said.
HK ship also monitored
Pama said the MV Peach Mountain was among the ships they monitored to be somewhere off Narciso, Zambales moving north at the speed of 10.1 knots about 8:45 a.m. on June 20.
“So if we are just going to compute on the basis of the speed of the ship at nine in the morning, she cannot be in that particular (area of the ramming incident ) which is 130 nautical miles away,” Pama said.
“However this is not a definitive conclusion since as we all know there are other factors that may increase or decrease the speed of a vessel,” he immediately added.
Pama said if the MV Peach Mountain maintained its speed of 10.1 knots, “it would take her 13 hours to be in the location where the incident happened.”
But due to the prevailing southwest monsoon “it’s also possible that the ship sped faster and it’s also possible it maintained its speed,” he said.
“We are still checking. This is not a definitive or conclusive report because we are also checking other sources of data,” he added.
Pama said they have not discounted the ship responsible was another one that was moving to the south, even if the survivors reported that the vessel that hit them was moving northward.
“That is also not conclusive given the fact that they have been at sea for the past three days, they may have been disoriented,” Pama said.
Pama also said that even though the fishermen saw Hong Kong written on the ship, “it only means that the ship was registered in Hong Kong but it does not necessarily mean that it is owned by Chinese or it’s owned by the Chinese government.”
Gazmin said the territorial dispute over the Panatag Shoal off Zambales was not related to the ramming incident. With a report from Dona Pazzibugan, Philippine Daily Inquirer