Fil-Chinese group to pay for repair of sunken fishing boat
MANILA, Philippines — The largest organization of Filipino-Chinese businesses pledged on Sunday to pay for the repair of the fishing boat hit by a Chinese trawler in the West Philippine Sea on June 9, a gesture its president was quick to say was not an “admission of guilt” but mere humanitarian assistance.
Henry Lim Bon Liong, president of the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (FFCCCII), said the group would fund the “immediate rehabilitation” of the damaged FB Gem-Vir 1 so the 22 affected Filipino fishermen could “resume their livelihood.”
“There’s no admission of guilt of any party here,” Liong said at a press conference in Quezon City. “Our only concern here is the source of income of the fishermen.”
Liong said the group had agreed to aid the victims, who were allegedly abandoned by the Chinese vessel and ultimately rescued by Vietnamese fishermen, after Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago Sta. Romana called to ask what assistance the FFCCCII could provide.
Little specifics were given, however, as the organization was still assessing the extent of the damage to the boat, whether it was insured and how much would be needed to rebuild it.
In the meantime, Liong said he would also be donating rice to the fishermen and their families.
“They are not going to go hungry,” he said. “We will get this fixed at the soonest possible time.”
The group had also gotten in touch with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who was “very happy” about the businessmen’s offer, Liong added.
Even as the FFCCCII heaped promises of aid and support to the fishermen, the group demurred when asked if they believed the victims’ account of the supposed “hit-and-run” or whether China should be made to face sanctions for the incident.
“The Philippine and [Chinese] governments are now still ascertaining what really happened,” Liong said. “So far the real truth that we are already sure of is that our 22 Filipino brothers had lost their fishing vessel and their means of livelihood.”
The group also appealed for “sobriety” from Filipinos amid calls from all levels of government for swift diplomatic action to be taken.
“I think it is a very isolated incident,” said Liong, who added that he wanted to be a “bridge” between China and the Philippines. “An incident like this is bound to happen if you ask me.”
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