OCCIDENTAL MINDORO, Philippines – While Fishing Boat Gem-Ver is already home, it is far from completely repaired after a Chinese fishing ship rammed it in the West Philippine Sea.
The biggest damage was obvious from afar. What remained of its stern bore a gaping hole, improvisationally covered by plywood. The missing part was the boat’s point of contact with the Chinese vessel.
“Binangga po yung likod, umalis, bumalik at inilawan, tapos umalis ulit (They rammed the rear, left, came back to light us, then left again),” said fisherman Boy Gordiones told Rappler. It was his turn to guard the boat on Saturday, June 15 as it was still far out at shore.
Gordiones showed what remained of the fishing boat. It’s empty, save for a roaring pumping machine inside its hull that forces out water that slowly seeped in. (READ: Owner of PH boat sunk by Chinese ship: 'I only ask for justice')
“Inanod na po lahat ng laman, lahat ng huli (Everything inside was left for the waves, even our catch),” Gordiones said.
Its masts were toppled like timber, after what the fishermen described as the Chinese ship’s “wings” hit them as it turned around after ramming Gem-Ver’s back.
Other debris scattered at its deck: entangled fishing lines, scraps of wood, a small fishing boat lying askew.
Gordiones and 21 other fishermen were on their 12th day at sea for a fishing expedition in Recto Bank (Reed Bank), when the Chinese boat attacked. They have done this monthly for years. Now, their lives have been put at a halt.
According to Felix dela Torre, the owner of the boat, they would have to spend hundreds of thousands of pesos to repair the boat so that it could sail again—even if it means meeting more threats at sea.
“Ay wala naman po kaming kabuhayan kundi pangingisda, kaya makikipagsapalaran ulit para mabuhay ang pamilya (We don’t have other sources of livelihood aside from fishing, so we can face them again just for our families to live),” Dela Torre said.
Here are more photos of the ship from Rappler's photo chief, LeAnne Jazul:
All photos by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler
TOP PHOTO: EMPTIED. Fishing Boat Gem-Ver's cabin emptied of equipment after it sank in the West Philippine Sea. Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler
Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.