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Duterte to meet boat captain in Recto Bank incident

/ 06:35 PM June 16, 2019
Rescued Gem-Vir 1 crew members

The rescued crew of the fishing boat Gem-Vir 1 — all from San Jose, Occidental Mindoro — pose with officers of the patrol vessel BRP Ramon Alcaraz after they were picked up from a Philippine fishing vessel, FB Thanksgiving. (Photo by MADONNA T. VIROLA / Inquirer Southern Luzon)

SAN PEDRO CITY, Laguna, Philippines — Malacañang has invited Junel Insigne, the captain of the Filipino fishing boat Gem-Vir 1, to a meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte.

The invitation for a meeting, set for Monday afternoon at Malacañan Palace, came a week after the incident in the West Philippine Sea in which a Chinese fishing trawler reportedly rammed a Filipino fishing boat and abandoned it, along with its crew of 22, at Recto Bank.

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The President has been mum about the incident, although his spokesman, Salvador Panelo, said the chief executive was already aware of the incident and was “outraged” by it.

The Philippines had also filed a diplomatic protest against China.

Insigne was a bit apprehensive to meet with the president, according to Elizer Salilig, Mimaropa regional director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).

In a phone interview, Salilig said: “The boat owner called me earlier and said the captain was scared. He said he was afraid he might get arrested or something.”

Insigne and the crew members claimed the Chinese vessel sank their boat, contrary to an earlier statement from the Chinese Embassy in Manila that it was “besieged” by seven to eight other Filipino fishing boats.

Salilig said he was advised of the meeting on Saturday.

“I told them: ‘Why be scared?’” Salilig said.

He said the Palace had yet to offer any help to the fishermen but were told they would only discuss what happened.

The BFAR regional director said he would also make a “presentation” before the President on the incident.

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Aside from Salilig and Insigne, Eduardo Gongona, BFAR national director, is also expected to join the meeting at the Palace.

Insigne is scheduled to travel from San Jose in Occidental Mindoro with the provincial officers of the BFAR on Sunday evening.

Meanwhile, Insigne said they were promised assistance by the government in the repair of Gem-Vir 1.

Father’s Day relief

In a statement posted on social media, which was immediately taken down on Saturday, the Chinese Embassy referred to the incident as an “ordinary maritime traffic accident.”

Staying firm on the Filipinos’ narration of the incident, Insigne again denied that the Chinese trawler had been “besieged” by Filipino vessels.

In a previous interview, Insigne said he believed the crew of the Chinese vessel had knowingly rammed their boat and left them at sea.

On Sunday morning, Father’s Day, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi met with the Gem-Vir 1 crew in Barangay San Roque 1.

In an interview with media, Cusi said the President sent him to get firsthand accounts of the incident as head of the Mimaropa Regional Development Council.

Mimaropa, or Region 4-B, is composed of Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, and Palawan.

Cusi refused, however, to give an assessment of what happened to the fishermen, saying that the investigation and data gathering were not yet over.

The fishermen and their families also received Father’s Day relief assistance, including rice and other food, from private donors and volunteers. —With reports from Madonna T. Virola, Inquirer Southern Luzon

(Editor: Alexander T. Magno)

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TAGS: Gem-Vir 1, Junel Insigne, PH-China boat collision, Recto Bank incident, Rodrigo Duterte
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