“Wala naman pong malaking implikasyon ‘yan. Banggaan lang po ‘yan,” Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said.
This was the response of Malacañang on Monday when asked if the recent collision of a Philippine fishing boat with a Hongkong cargo ship on the coast of Occidental Mindoro would affect its ties with China.
“This is a matter to be governed by Philippine law. This is an issue of Philippine admiralty law because the collision occurred in Philippine territorial waters,” Roque explained.
“There is no international law application here other than foreign flagships can sail through under the concept of innocent passage. But as far as the accountability is concerned, mga Pilipino po ang magdedesisyon diyan dahil ang banggaan po ay nangyari po sa ating karagatan,” he added.
On Sunday, around 14 people including 12 crew members and two workers of a fishing company have gone missing after their boat was hit by a Chinese cargo vessel in the waters of Occidental Mindoro.
In an exclusive interview of DZRH to Fermin Sotto, general manager of Irma Fishing and Trading Company in Navotas, their FBCA Liberty 5 (singco) fishing boat capsized 14 miles off Cape Calavite, Mindoro. Based on initial reports, the Chinese cargo involved in the incident was identified as ‘Veinna Wood.’
According to the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), the captain of the Hongkong-registered cargo ship only called for help “a few hours later.”
In a statement, progressive fishers group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) called the statement of Malacañang as “cover up for China.”
“What happened in the early morning hours of June 28 was not a simple collision, but a hit-and-run resulting in the 14 fishing crew missing up until now,” Pamalakaya chair Fernando Hicap said.
“Like how President Rodrigo Duterte downplayed the ramming of F/B Gem-Ver 1 last year as a simple maritime incident, he is dismissing this similar incident in the name of protecting his relations with China, but at the expense of our national sovereignty and fishing rights of our fisherfolk,” he added.
As of Tuesday, authorities are still in search of any member of the FV Liberty 5 crew.
“Sa mga oras na ito wala pa silang positive na naibigay sa atin. Wala pa silang nakikita,” said Fermin Sotto, general manager of Irma Fishing and Trading Company, said on Monday, June 29, during DZRH’s Damdaming Bayan.
Irma Fishing and Trading Company owns FV Liberty 5.
Sotto remains hopeful that the crew of FV Liberty survived the maritime incident since the company found posts in social media platform Facebook about survivors from the capsized fishing boat.
“May mga haka-haka doon sa Facebook na meron daw survivor. Inaantay namin yung tumawag sila dito sa amin para mapuntahan namin. Sana totoo iyon,” Sotto said.
On the same month last year, President Rodrigo Duterte referred on the issue of a Chinese fishing vessel abandoning at least 20 Filipino crewmen after colliding with their boat at the Recto Bank at the West Philippine Sea as plain “maritime incident.”