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Sen. Risa Hontiveros urges government not to downplay Mindoro coast collision

By Hannah L. Torregoza

Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday appealed to the government not to downplay recent reports of another Philippine fishing boat colliding with a Chinese vessel saying it should thoroughly look into the incident and search for the 14 Filipino fishermen who are still missing.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

Sen. Risa Hontiveros
(Senate of the Philippines / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Hontiveros is referring to the maritime collision between a Filipino-owned fishing boat and a Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship off the coast of Occidental Mindoro before dawn on Sunday, June 28.

“Fourteen of our Filipino fishermen are missing. Our priority should be to find them, fully investigate, and not to further protect China’s interests,” Hontiveros said.

“We shouldn’t soft-pedal these incidents when we know this is not the first time that Chinese vessels have put Filipinos in danger,” she said.

The senator recalled the government’s dismal response to the sinking of the Philippine fishing boat F/B Gem-Ver 1 which was rammed by a Chinese vessel in June last year at Recto Bank off Palawan.

The 22 Filipino crew members aboard the ship were left to drift at sea and were later rescued by a Vietnamese fishing boat.

“Pumanig naman tayo sa sarili nating mga mangingisda (Let’s side with our own fishermen please),” Hontiveros urged noting how MalacaƱang asserted that the crash with the 14 Filipinos still missing was a mere “banggaan lang” or a simple collision.

The lawmaker further urged the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to “leave no water or land unchecked” in their search, rescue, and investigation.

“I appeal to the government to commit that we will be able to return these Filipino fishermen to their families as soon as possible,” she said.

The government should also demand justice from China since the ‘hit and run” act of the Chinese ship—like the Gem-Ver 1 incident—is in stark violation of international maritime laws.

“The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), and other similar treaties clearly mandate that after a collision, ships must render assistance to the other ship and its crew and passengers,” she said.

She also urged the government to make China accountable for building illegal “stations” in the West Philippine Sea, particularly at the Zamora and Kagitingan Reefs, in the middle of the pandemic.

“Unahin nating protektahan ang kaligtasan ng ating mga mangingisda at ng mga Pilipino kesa sa feelings ng China (Let’s prioritize the safety of our fishermen and fellow Filipinos than entertain China’s feelings),” she said.


Source: Manila Bulletin (https://news.mb.com.ph/2020/06/30/sen-risa-hontiveros-urges-government-not-to-downplay-mindoro-coast-collision/)

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