MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Malacañang on Monday, June 29, dismissed the view that the recent collision involving a Philippine fishing boat and a Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship off the coast of Occidental Mindoro would affect ties with China.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque instead likened the collision to a road crash that would simply be resolved under Philippine laws.
“Wala po. Banggaan ‘yan po sa ating karagatan, so ireresolba po ‘yan sang-ayon sa batas ng admiralty,” Roque said in a press briefing on Monday.
(There are no implications. It’s a collision that happened in our waters so it will be resolved according to our admiralty laws.)
“Alam ‘nyo po, ang rules ng banggaan sa karagatan, parehong-pareho rin po ‘yan ng rules na ina-apply ‘pag may banggaan sa kalye. Wala naman pong malaking implikasyon ‘yan. Banggaan lang po ‘yan,” he added.
(You know, rules for collisions at sea are similar to rules that are applied if there are road crashes. There are no major implications. It’s just a collision.)
Fisherfolk’s reaction: The progressive fishers group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) slammed Roque’s statement and accused the Duterte administration of “covering 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 in a statement.
“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.”
The group called for justice for Filipino fishermen “victimized by Chinese aggression.”
What happened? On Sunday, June 28, 14 Filipinos went missing in the waters off Cape Calavite, Occidental Mindoro, after their boat collided with the Hong Kong-flagged Vienna Wood cargo ship at around 1 am.
The Vienna Wood was reported to have left Subic and was sailing to Australia when it collided with Philippine fishing boat Liberty 5. The fishing boat’s capsized hull was spotted at around 10 am on Sunday, though there were no signs of its 12 crew and two other employees of the boat’s owner, Irma Fishing and Trading, who had been onboard.
The Philippine Coast Guard is now searching for the 14 missing fishermen.
Asked to comment on the incident, the Department of Foreign Affairs said it was still verifying the details.
In June 2019, a Chinese boat sank and abandoned Philippine fishing boat Gem-Ver while it was anchored on Recto Bank (Reed Bank) off Palawan. The sinking put the Duterte administration’s policy on the West Philippine Sea in the spotlight and tested Manila’s ties with Beijing.
In the President’s first statement days after the Gem-Ver sinking, he had dismissed it as a “maritime incident.”