By Aaron Recuenco
While there are rules and protocols on the rescue of people in distress in the middle of the sea, officials of the Philippine Navy believe that the captain and crew of the Chinese fishing vessel that may have either accidentally hit or intentionally rammed a Philippine fishing vessel near the Recto Bank at the West Philippine Sea have committed a serious offense: the law of conscience.
For Navy Flag-Officer-In-Command Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad, no person on his right mind would abandon 22 people in the middle of the sea after knowing that the fishing vessel was destroyed and eventually sank.
“Regardless of who was at fault, I think it’s the responsibility of the other ship that was not damaged to offer assistance to the other vessel that was severely damaged. You cannot just abandon them regardless of race because lives of people are at stake,” said Empedrad.
“It is not only about the rules or protocols, it is also about conscience,” he added.
Based on the police report obtained by the Manila Bulletin from the MIMAROPA (Mindoro Oriental and Occidental, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan) regional police, a Chinese fishing vessel collided with F/B Gimver 1 with 22 Filipino fishermen on board at the vicinity of Recto Bank (Latitude 11 degrees 34.00 minutes North Longitude 116 degrees 49.00 minutes East) in the West Philippine Sea, or South China Sea.
The fishing vessel, according to MIMAROPA regional police Lt. Col. Socrates Faltado, is owned by a certain Felix dela Torre of San Jose, Occidental Mindoro and operated by a certain Jonel Insigme.
“Accordingly, after the collision the said Chinese fishing vessel immediately left the vicinity of the capsized Filipino vessel,” Faltado said, quoting the police report.
“Fortunately, the Filipino crew [members] were rescued by a Vietnamese fishing vessel and later transferred to another Filipino fishing vessel named F/B AJ THANKSGIVING and [are] now in good condition,” he added.
The incident ironically occurred during the celebration of the friendship day of China and the Philippines.
It was Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana who confirmed the incident in a statement issued late Wednesday afternoon.
“We condemn in the strongest terms the cowardly action of the Chinese fishing vessel and its crew for abandoning the Filipino crew. This is not the expected action from a responsible and friendly people,” Lorenzana said.
Philippine Coast Guard spokesman Capt. Armand Balilo said that they are yet to investigate what really happened, revealing that they would be deploying a ship in Mindoro to talk to the rescued fishermen.
“Kaya nga yun ang ikinagagalit naming lahat, na kung sakaling talaga na sinadyang i-ram ito, ito’y hindi tama at kelangan nating mag-take ng action,” Balilo said in an interview over dzRH.
But he said that it is difficult to conclude at this point as they are still waiting for the result of the investigation.