Another Chinese vessel rammed PH fishermen’s boat — PCG
Cast adrift for almost a day, five Filipino fishermen were rescued after a Chinese cargo ship rammed their fishing boat in the waters off Occidental Mindoro province, in apparently another hit-and-run incident in the West Philippine Sea, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said.
Based on a report on Thursday by the PCG’s Occidental Mindoro station, the fishing boat Ruel J was anchored at a “payao,” a type of fishing installation, some 46 kilometers (25 nautical miles) west of Paluan town, past 4 p.m. on Tuesday, when it was reportedly hit by MV Tai Hang 8.
Citing the accounts of the survivors, the PCG reported that the fishermen were “left adrift as the foreign vessel continued its voyage unknowingly.”
But the owner of the fishing boat said in a radio interview that the fishermen had seen the people aboard the Chinese vessel “looking at them” after they fled to their smaller service boats seconds before the collision, which swept them away into the sea.
The five survivors—Junrey Sardan, Ryan Jay Daus, Bryan Pangatungam, Cristian Arizala, and Joshua Barbas—were rescued at around noon on Wednesday near Pandan Island, Sablayan town, according to the PCG.
The victims’ capsized boat was towed by FBCA Joker and assisted by FBCAs Precious Heart and Jaschene to the Sablayan port.
“Upon arrival at the Port of Sablayan, the Coast Guard ensured the well-being of all crew members, supplying essentials and confirming their good condition,” the PCG said.
The municipality of Sablayan conducted safety checkups on the fishermen. The local government and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in the town also pledged aid to the survivors.
The rescued fishermen were turned over to their immediate families, and the captain and owner of Ruel J were advised to file a marine protest.
The PCG assured the incident would be reported to China, MV Tai Hang’s flag state, and the port state control office in adherence to maritime incident procedures.
“The Coast Guard is diligently engaged in coordinating with the ship’s company, aiming to uncover the truth surrounding the incident,” it added.
Interviewed on dwPM radio on Thursday, Capt. Edyson Abanilla, commander of the PCG Station in Oriental Mindoro, said the incident happened between Occidental Mindoro and Palawan provinces, considered a “nautical highway” but still part of the West Philippine Sea, or the waters within the country’s 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone.
Abanilla said the PCG checked all of the vessels that were in the area during the time of the incident.
“And we have confirmed that MV Tai Hang 8 indeed passed in the area during that time. Its recorded position was also found to be near FBCA Ruel Jay,” he added.
Abanilla also clarified that MV Tai Hang 8 was not a Chinese maritime militia vessel, but a commercial cargo vessel.
Based on information available on different AIS vessel tracking websites, MV Tai Hang 8 left the port of Luoyuan, China, on Nov. 22, and was scheduled to arrive at its destination in Bunati, Indonesia, on Dec. 9.
Records from China Shipbuilding showed MV Tai Hang 8 is a 72,270-metric ton, 225-meter bulk carrier owned by Shanxi Coal International Energy Group Co. Ltd., headquartered in Taiyuan, China.
According to Jaziel Juano, owner of Ruel J and a resident of the Liberty area in Barangay Bagong Sikat, Puerto Princesa City in Palawan province, the boat left in the last week of October for a six-month fishing operation in Sablayan.
“Based on the account of my personnel, they were just attached to their payao in the afternoon [on Dec. 5]. They were resting, while waiting for the night to return to fishing. They did not expect that they would be hit because the sun was still out there,” she said in an interview, also on dwPM.
“When the ship was very near to hit them, they went into the smaller service boats. They were swept away from their boats because of the impact,” Juano said, citing the survivor’s accounts.
“They said that while they were in their boats, they saw the people aboard MV Tai Hang 8 looking at them,” she said.
“They were all traumatized after what happened,” she said.
In a separate phone interview with the Inquirer, Juano, 44, said the damaged boat was her family’s only source of income.
“Which is why we are asking for help to go after the vessel owner and file charges against them because they just left the boat damaged,” she said.
Sablayan Mayor Walter Marquez said the fishermen were being interviewed by the social welfare officers for the disbursement of assistance.
“The fishers have no capacity to file a marine protest because they do not even know who the vessel’s owner are and where to reach them. We will pursue a case as local government. I have requested for the police report from which we will decide what type of legal intervention to pursue,” Marquez said.
Abanilla said the crew of the MV Tai Hang 8 should not have abandoned the distressed Filipino fishers.
“Under the [United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea], any vessel which has witnessed a maritime incident in the sea is obliged to help. What more if you are the ship that hit a smaller vessel?” he explained.
It was not the first time that a Chinese ship had rammed a smaller Filipino fishing boat in Philippine waters.
On June 9, 2019, the Filipino fishing vessel Gem-Ver was crushed by the Chinese steel-hulled Yuemaobinyu 42212. Gem-Ver’s 22 crew members were abandoned at sea for at least two hours before they were rescued by a passing Vietnamese fishing boat.
A P6-million compensation was awarded to the Filipino fishermen but they were paid only in May 2022.
Collisions were reported during the Oct. 22 resupply mission to BRP Sierra Madre, a grounded World War II-era warship serving as a military outpost on Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal.
Unaizah May 2, one of the two Filipino supply boats, suffered “small” damage after it was hit by Chinese Coast Guard vessel 5203.
In the second incident, a Chinese maritime militia vessel with tail No. 00003 also bumped into PCG’s BRP Cabra, which was escorting the mission.
Philippine authorities are still awaiting for the result of the investigation of its foreign counterparts after Filipino fishing boat Dearyn was hit by Pacific Anna, a 44-meter crude oil tanker vessel registered under the flag of Marshall Islands, also on Oct. 22, in waters off Agno, Pangasinan, facing the West Philippine Sea. Of the 14 crew members of Dearyn, three died.
Pacific Anna is owned by Sinokor Maritime Co. Ltd., a Chinese-Korean shipping company based in Seoul, South Korea.