Senators want Chinese ship owner to pay damages to Gem-Ver fishermen
MANILA, Philippines – Senators wanted the owner of the Chinese vessel that rammed, sank, and abandoned F/B Gem-Ver to compensate the Filipino fishermen, but Senate President Vicente Sotto III thought otherwse.
In separate statements, Senate Majority Floor Leader Franklin Drilon, Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, Senator Francis Pangilinan, and Senator Francis Tolentino said that an apology is not enough.
For Tolentino, the apology from the side of the Chinese "showed the validity" of the accounts by the Gem-Ver fishermen.
Beijing initially denied that a Chinese ship sank the Filipino boat. (READ: The sinking of Gem-Ver: Barko! May babanggang barko!)
"We should pursue our civil claim for damages to give justice to our fishermen as well as seek other routes to protect them in the future hand in hand with our sovereign rights," Tolentino said on Wednesday, August 28.
The apology letter of the ship owner went through two agencies before it reached the Philippine embassy in Beijing. The letter was written by the Guangdong Fishery Mutual Insurance Association which the owner was a part of, then it was coursed through the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Affairs to the Philippine embassy in Beijing.
In the apology letter, the Chinese group said the collision happened at the "Reed Bank, Nansha Island Group." The Reed Bank is part of the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone based on a 2016 international ruling.
While Pangilinan welcomed the apology, he said that the words used in the letter should not be taken as a matter of fact.
"Mali nilang binaggit sa nasabing sulat na nangyari ang insidente sa Reed Bank na kasama sa Nansha Island Group. Hindi natin dapat tanggapin na kasama sa Nansha Island Group ng China ang Recto o Reed bank dahil nasa loob ng EEZ ng Pilipinas ang Reed Bank. Hindi dapat tanggapin ang mga salita na ito," Pangilinan said on Thursday, August 29.
(What they mentioned in the letter that the incident happened in Reed Bank that is part of the Nansha Island Group is wrong. We shouldn't accept that the Recto or Reed Bank is part of the Nansha Island Group. We shouldn't accept these words.)
No need to pay?
Sotto said that the apology is an "excellent welcome" to President Rodrigo Duterte who is currently in Beijing to watch the FIBA World Cup games.
But in a tweet, Sotto doesn't seem to agree his with colleagues that the Chinese ship owner should pay damages to the Filipino fishermen, citing the 2010 Luneta hostage crisis where 8 Hong Kong tourists died.
"Did we apologize to HK when their citizens were massacred in Luneta? Did they ask for compensation? Hindi ko maalala (I can't remember)," Sotto said.
Meanwhile, Senator Panfilo Lacson said it's up to the aggrieved parties if they want compensation from the Chinese owner. In the apology letter, the Filipino fishermen were urged to claim damages.
"An apology is an apology no matter when it is offered or given.So there is no saying we should forget that unfortunate incident," Lacson said in a media interview on Thursday.
But Lacson pointed out that the apology did not come from Chinese government.
"I think that would be discussed in the visit of the President. I’m just hoping it could be taken up as a matter of fact, and the Chinese government will also consider offering the same apology on behalf of the Chinese people," Lacson said.
Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, a staunch defender of the West Philippine Sea, earlier called on the Philippine government to demand compensation from China after the incident. (READ: Carpio corrects China ship owner's apology: Recto Bank not part of Spratlys) – Rappler.com