Tsinoy biz group gives P1.4M to crew, owner of ill-fated boat
In a gesture of support for President Duterte’s handling of the maritime incident at Recto Bank in the South China Sea, a big Chinese-Filipino business group on Friday donated a total of P1.45 million to the owner of the fishing boat and its 22-man crew that survived its sinking.
The Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc. (FFCCCII) said its cash donation was meant for the repairs to the FB Gem-Ver 1, whose stern was badly damaged after it was rammed by a Chinese trawler on the night of June 9.
A check for P1.2 million was handed by the group’s president, Henry Lim Bon Liong, to Felix dela Torre, the owner of the fishing boat.
The FFCCCII also donated P250,000 in livelihood assistance to the 22 fishermen, and pledged to build five school buildings in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro province, where all but one of fishermen live.
Lim, along with several FFCCCII members, turned over the donation to the fishermen during a press conference in Quezon City on Friday.
Lim, the chair and CEO of SL Agritech Corp, the country’s leading producer of hybrid rice, said the cash donation had “no strings attached” and that the group did not communicate with the Chinese government before making the grant.
“This federation is a local federation,” Lim said as he asked the public not to politicize the donation.
“The FFCCCII is a Filipino business and civic organization, and we give this assistance to our fellow countrymen in distress, hoping that this humanitarian act can help alleviate their plight,” he added.
In the June 9 incident, the Filipino fishermen struggled to stay afloat for four hours after the Chinese trawler hit their anchored boat and abandoned them.
They were eventually rescued by a Vietnamese fishing boat and turned over to a Philippine Navy patrol vessel.
Recto Bank is located in the West Philippine Sea, waters within the Philippines’ 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.
The fishermen, through the boat’s captain Junel Insigne, thanked FFCCCII for the donation. He said repairs to the Gem-Ver 1 could take four months.
“This crisis has really affected our lives and livelihood,” Insigne said. “All of us would like to thank FFCCCII and the Filipino-Chinese community for helping us and our families in this crisis. The help they extended is huge for all of us.”
Supporting Duterte stance
In an interview with reporters after the event, Lim said his group supported the decisions and actions of Duterte in playing down the incident.
“Our President actually is very realistic. We respect him, that’s why whatever…he says we will wholeheartedly support. This [is] the right move hopefully, and if any incident happens again in the future—although hopefully there won’t be—our group is willing to extend help,” Lim said.
The planned construction of the five school buildings in San Jose town is part of the FFCCCII’s nationwide civic project, called “Operation Barrio School.” Each building is estimated to cost P500,000.
“We don’t feel guilty or whatever,” Lim said, when asked about the donation. “We are all Filipinos, so we have to help one another. I may be ‘Tsinoy’ but this is where I was born, this is where I studied… We are all brothers here.”
Fishermen Richard Blaza and JP Gordiones accompanied Dela Torre and Insigne to the event.
“We are thankful for the Filipino-Chinese community for their timely help, which will enable us to fix our boat as soon as possible. We’ll know who our real friends are in times like this,” Dela Torre said.
Lim said the incident at Recto Bank had not strained business relations between the Philippines and China and that Chinese delegations continued to schedule business trips to the country.
Their counterparts in China are not even aware of the incident, he added.
“There are no strains, no effect [in business]. We just want a stable economy. We don’t want disruptions or whatever,” Lim said. —REPORTS FROM KARL R. OCAMPO AND PATRICIA DENISE M. CHIU
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