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‘We were rammed,’ fishermen insist

BOLINAO, Pangasinan, Philippines—One of the fishermen who survived an alleged collision in the West Philippine Sea on June 20, insisted on Friday that their fishing boat, Axl John, was rammed by a still unidentified foreign cargo ship, believed registered in Hong Kong.

Interviewed in Barangay Concordia here, Herman Balmores, 51, said the ship plowed straight into their already half-submerged wooden fishing boat, smashing it into pieces.

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Clinging to the floating debris, Balmores and three companions–one of whom died later in a hospital–drifted in the open sea for four days before they were rescued by fishermen off Ilocos Sur. Four others remain missing.

“We were waving our clothes and Styrofoam box cover as the ship approached us but it went right to us,” he said.

Balmores was reacting to a statement of Transportation Secretary Manuel Roxas II on Thursday that the foreign vessel did not ram the fishing boat but just swept past it with great force, kicking up huge waves.

Quoted by reporters in Manila, Roxas said the crew members of the fishing boat “tied their boat (to the artificial reef) so they won’t drift … and while there, the cargo vessel passed by (but) did not ram them.”

Balmores on Friday clarified that their boat was no longer tied to the artificial reef (“payaw”) off this coastal town when the ship crushed their boat.

“The rope we used to tie our boat to the payaw snapped on Tuesday night (June 19) when the waves became bigger,” he said.

Because of this, he said, they were already drifting in the open sea, about 78 nautical miles from this town, when the incident happened the next day.

When it was clear to him and his companions that the ship was not stopping, Balmores said they all jumped out of their impaired boat to avoid harm.

Balmores, his cousin Edemio Balmores, the boat’s skipper, Marcelino Damian and Christopher Carbonel were rescued on June 24, four days after the incident, by fishermen from Magsingal, Ilocos Sur. Carbonel died in a Vigan City hospital the following day.

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On Wednesday, the PCG deployed a helicopter and a tugboat to scour the waters west of Ilocos Sur for the missing fishermen–Amante Resonable, Fred Celino, Arnold Garcia and Domy de los Santos of Bolinao town in Pangasinan.

But on Thursday, as Tropical Storm “Dindo” crossed northern Luzon, the Coast Guard suspended its search.

Navy Lieutenant Jomark Angue, operations officer of the PCG district in northwestern Luzon, said the storm had prevented his men from resuming their aerial and surface search operations.

“Our search remains suspended today because of the prevailing weather condition,” Angue said Friday in a text message. But he said the search will resume when the weather improves.

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TAGS: fishermen, Foreign affairs, Maritime, maritime accident, sea collision
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