Locsin: Probe shows PH crew share blame in Recto Bank hit
MANILA, Philippines — Because they were asleep, they didn’t know what happened. They just found themselves in the water.
There should have been a lookout on the Gem-Ver 1. And there should have been lights to make the fishing boat visible from a distance.
But there was just one light on the Philippine fishing boat, which was anchored and sitting low on the water.
The Chinese trawler may not have seen the boat early enough to avoid hitting it.
Discussing for the first time the official investigation of the sinking of the Gem-Ver 1 at Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea on June 9, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said on Wednesday that the 22 fishermen from San Jose, Occidental Mindoro province, shared the blame for what happened.
The fishermen initially reported the hit on their boat was intentional. Later they toned down their complaint, saying they were not sure.
Locsin said the Coast Guard investigation established that the fishermen did not assign a lookout while they slept.
The cook who happened to be awake at the time had a small light that might not have been enough to warn the oncoming Chinese trawler.
Locsin, however, stressed that there was “no question” that the Chinese vessel abandoned the Filipino fishermen in the open sea in the dark, an act that he denounced as a “felony” at a United Nations meeting in New York on June 17.
He also disclosed that the Chinese Embassy charge d’affaires was summoned to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to receive the Philippines’ protest.
“Our investigation was finished. It was exhaustive. It does not paint our fishermen in the brightest light. It’s not that they’re wrong, [but] why they didn’t have a lookout? Even the enemies of the President say you need a lookout,” Locsin said in a television interview.
He said the cook, who was on the deck, apparently was not concerned at first when he saw a vessel approaching.
“And then he looked up again — this is based on interviews so this is not made up — and then he said it’s coming closer. And then he looked up again and said, ‘My gosh it’s gotta hit,’ and he shouted,” Locsin said.
“And he got a small light. Whether or not that light should have been sufficient to warn the oncoming Chinese vessel, I don’t know. Let the guys who are the experts on maritime discuss that,” he said.
Then the Chinese vessel sailed away, abandoning the Filipino fishermen, who struggled to stay afloat for hours before they were able to call the attention of a Vietnamese fishing boat, which rescued them.
“There was no alleged. They left. I think they backed up and then they went. That’s why I spoke in the United Nations. And when I spoke I did not emphasize the allision,” Locsin said, adding that he thanked Vietnam for helping the Filipino fishermen.
Locsin said the Philippine investigation was over and that the conflicting findings could be discussed with the Chinese authorities without undertaking a joint investigation, as other Cabinet members wanted.
What other PH boats?
On June 16, the Chinese Embassy in Manila said it was the fishing boat Yuemaobinyu 42212 from Guangdong province that hit the Gem-Ver 1, but claimed the trawler left to avoid a siege by seven to eight other Philippine boats that were in the area.
Without denying that the Chinese trawler sailed away without helping the Filipino fishermen, the Chinese Embassy claimed the Chinese captain saw the fishermen being rescued by the other Philippine fishing boats before he left.
The embassy’s claim was belied by responders from the Philippine Coast Guard who immediately went to the site and took the Filipino fishermen from their Vietnamese rescuers.
“The facts were established immediately by the Coast Guard,” Locsin said.
While he discussed the contents of the report, Locsin said he would not show it to anyone.
“To people who take outrage over the fact that we call it an incident. It was an incident. What do you want to call it? An act of aggression? That’s really retarded if you say that. It wasn’t. It happened,” he said.
“I’m the only one in this goddamned country who understood what it was. It was an allision,” Locsin said.
“Allision” is a maritime term that means the striking by one ship of another that is stationary, as distinguished from “collision,” which means two moving vessels striking each other.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who first reported the incident on June 12, called it a “hit-and-run” and condemned the Chinese trawler’s “cowardly action” of abandoning the Filipino fishermen in the open sea.
Angry Filipino lawmakers have pointed out that denying help to the distressed at sea is a violation of maritime laws.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo has said that China has given assurance that sanctions will be imposed on the crew of the Chinese trawler if they are proven to be at fault.