Quezon City, Philippines – “The government’s response on the ramming of a Filipino boat with 22 fisherfolk by a Chinese vessel and leaving them behind to drown in the sea is lame, spineless and cowardly,” PMPI said in a statement.
The Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. (PMPI), a network of civil society organizations, rights groups, peace and faith-based institutions express disbelief and disgust over the position and standpoints issued by the Philippine government.
It took several days before President Rodrigo Duterte reacted on the incident. And when he finally released a statement, he sided with the Chinese and claimed that the incident is just a ‘little maritime accident”, quite uncharacteristic of a lambasting and outburst-prone President. Adding insult to injury, the President said that this should not be tantamount to sending a ship and waging a war over China and worst belittling the fisherfolks harrowing experience of life and death.
Furthermore, PMPI slams cabinet officials like Alfredo Cusi, the Department of Energy Chief and Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol, who toe the line of the Chief Executive. Cusi also claimed that the incident is just an ordinary maritime traffic accident and worst doubts the veracity of the fisherfolks story of the mishap. Piñol on one hand, after a closed door meeting where police barred media to attend it, said that it was an unintentional accident questioning also the truthfulness of the statements of the affected fisherfolks.
“What have become of our leaders? These fainthearted responses dashed the remaining hopes of the fisherfolks seeking to claim justice over the boat ramming incident,” the PMPI added.
PMPI believes that China should be held accountable for the June 9 mishap, because whether the ramming was accidental or intentional, under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), those who are in distress at sea should be rescued, which the Chinese vessel failed to do.
It also happened under Philippine territory, the captain of the Chinese vessel and its crew should be litigated under Philippine laws.
China’s claim is also questionable. A satellite image was shown by Director Jay Batongbacal of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, doubting China’s claims that the Chinese vessel was besieged. The satellite image shows that the closest Filipino boats from the incident are about 3-5 nautical miles. If there were indeed several Filipinos boats near the incident, why was the rescuers Vietnamese and not Filipinos?
The audacity and the lies of China is clearly insulting the intelligence of the Filipinos. And, to our utter disbelief, our leaders believe them more, the statement said.
PMPI remains in solidarity with the 22 fishermen. The fisherfolk sector provide food in our table, with the farmers, they are the backbone of our society. Yet, they are among the poorest of the poor. Government should protect them because without them the whole nation will go hungry.
The group also cried foul at the seeming harassment through indirect bribes and intimidation by our own government leaders and the dismissive statements on the claims of our fisherfolks. These actions show the world that it is ready to submit to China and lose whatever dignity we have as a people, it further said.
We demand for an immediate, independent impartial investigation of the mishap to determine the accountability of the Chinese vessel together with its government.
We ask that the Navy/Marina be fair and bring forth an unbiased report of the mishap.
We call on the Senate to do an independent inquiry to this incident.
We call on all Filipinos to push government to uphold our sovereignty and stop kowtowing to the whims, caprices and arrogance of the Chinese government.
Lastly, the group thanked the Vietnamese vessel who rescued our Filipino brothers. We apologize that the action of our government to distort the truth and caused them to appear that they too are lying. We ask the international community, particularly our Asian brothers who have rejected the Chinese in many ways and forms to continue to be our friends and stopping China’s from its imperialistic actions.