Captain of sunken boat backs out of meeting with Duterte

MANILA, Philippines – Junel Insigne, the captain of the Philippine boat sunk by a Chinese vessel, has backed out of a scheduled meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte set on Monday, June 17, at Malacañang.

According to his town mayor Romulo Festin, at dawn of Monday, Insigne was on his way to Calapan City in Oriental Mindoro to board a roll-on/roll-off ship bound for Batangas City when he expressed his wish to return home. They were already in Roxas, Oriental Mindoro, when he asked to be dropped off.

Roxas is at least 2 hours away from Calapan by car. Insigne was being escorted by officials of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).

"Nagpababa siya habang papunta na sila, pero sinundo na lang namin siya (He asked the escorts to let him go down. We just fetched him.)," Festin told Rappler in a phone interview.

The mayor said Insigne did not say why he decided to skip the Malacañang meeting.

The only ones who pushed through with riding a boat to Batangas then drive to Manila are the cook of the boat, Richard Blaza, and the mother of the owner, Arlinda dela Torre. They are already in Manila, according to Festin.

Flip-flops

It has been 8 days since Gem-Ver was sunk by a fishing vessel in the West Philippine Sea. President Duterte has yet to issue a public statement.

It was Mayor Festin who announced on Sunday, June 16, that Insigne will be flown to Malacañang on Monday to meet with the President.

In an interview after boarding a Philippine Navy ship that fetched them from the seas on June 14, Insigne said categorically that it was a Chinese ship that sank the Filipino boat on June 9 near Recto Bank. At the time, China had yet to admit it.

Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, who visited Mindoro on Sunday, said an emergency Cabinet meeting is going to be held on Monday to tackle the issue. But on the same day, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea denied it. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said, however, that it's pushing through.

As of Monday morning, there's no confirmation from Malacañang about this supposed meeting. – Rappler.com

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

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