DEVELOPING — The 22 Filipino fishermen appeal to Duterte that Recto Bank should be exclusive to them and help them secure the area, which is in the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol expressed this appeal after speaking with the fishermen in Occidental Mindoro, Wednesday, June 19. He was tasked by the government to assist the aggrieved Filipino fishermen.
“The fishermen are also asking the President that the Recto Bank, which is their traditional fishing grounds, should be their exclusive fishing grounds. And government should help them secure the area,” he said.
What happened in Recto Bank?
Recto Bank, which is internationally known as Reed Bank, is merely 85 nautical miles away from Palawan province.
On June 10, a Chinese vessel rammed F/B GEM-VER near the Recto Bank. Chinese crew abandoned the Filipinos after hitting their boat. Filipinos then had to stay afloat in the cold sea for almost three hours before a Vietnamese vessel rescued the Filipino fishermen.
A latest reported of Chinese harassment of Filipino fishermen, noting that they suffer from Chinese invasion in the West Philippine Sea, which China claims that it’s theirs because a portion is part of the South China Sea.
Filipino fishermen’s requests
Both Chinese and Vietnamese vessel had no right to be poaching in the Philippine EEZ, according to Piñol.
“They were actually poaching, including the Vietnamese ship that aided us. I’m sorry to say that. Salamat sa mga Vietnamese sa pagtulong, pero (Thank you Vietnamese people for the help, but) you were not supposed to be there. But thank God you were there. That was an illegal act that was providential,” Sec. Piñol said.
Another emotional request from the crew is to make the Chinese captain and his crew accountable.
“Make representations with the Chinese government, so the skipper — the captain — and crew of the Chinese vessel that figured in the maritime incident will be held accountable, criminally liable because of that act of abandonment.”
The captain of the Filipino vessel reiterated this appeal, “Sana po ‘yung bumangga sa amin, yung kapitan po, gusto ko pong mapanagot po ang kapitan, ‘yun lang ang hiling ko sa mahal na Presidente… Ang sama ng loob ko kasi iniwan kami (I hope that the captain of the Chinese vessel who rammed us would be liable for what happened, that is what I’m asking to our beloved President… What frustrates me is they had abandoned us.”