By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Maria Lourdes Nancy Binay on Wednesday expressed disappointment at how China downplayed as a simple maritime accident the sinking of a Philippine vessel as an ordinary maritime accident, saying this diminishes the testimony of the Filipino fishermen.
Binay said the incident was far from being an ordinary accident as China described it, given the many accounts and official reports of similar incidents involving Chinese vessels ramming foreign-flagged fishing boats.
“Mahirap paniwalaan na aksidente yung nangyari dahil maraming beses na itong nangyari di lang sa mga Pilipinong mangingisda, at alam ng ating Navy ‘yan (It’s hard to believe it’s a mere accident because these have happened many times not only to Filipino fishermen and our Navy knows that),” Binay said in a statement.
“Ang nakakalungkot lang (What is sad is that), China’s statements have overshadowed the testimonies and first-hand accounts of the crew,” the senator noted.
She pointed out that ship-to-ship collisions are a common excuse by Chinese fishermen, when in fact, maritime reports of similar incidents show that Chinese boats attack fishermen from the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia.
These incidents have left thousands of fishermen injured, missing or dead in territorial waters.
“More than the exchange of responses whether or not it was an accident, for me, yung pag-abandona ng Chinese vessel at hinayaan na lamang silang mamatay sa laot (and left them to die in the sea) is inhumane and unacceptable,” Binay said.
“Granting na aksidente nga ang nangyari (that what happened was an accident), the first thing that comes to mind is to save the lives of those who are hurt or injured—hindi mo sila basta iiwanan (you won’t just abandon them),” she said.
Binay added that the act of abandoning or failure to rescue those floundering at sea is clearly in violation of maritime laws.
The senator further said it is also clear under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) China’s duty to rescue, as it provides that the able vessel has a duty to rescue the Filipino fishermen.
“We should call out the Chinese government for abandoning our fishermen. We should seek accountability,” she said adding that the least they could do was send a distress call.
“Kung tatanggapin na lang natin itong isang aksidente (if we will just accept that this is just an accident), we just showed the world how we take care of our people),” Binay said.
“What if iba ang naging scenario, and all the 22 crew members died at sea? Paano kung walang mga Vietnamese na sumaklolo? (What if no Vietnamese fishermen rescued them?),” she pointed out.
“At kung namatay silang lahat, sino ang paniniwalaang kwento? China pa rin ba? (What if they all died? Whose account are we to believe? Would we still believe China?),” asked Binay.
Binay said the ordeal experienced by the Filipino fishermen and the government’s statements favoring the Chinese government’s version of the boat ramming incident shows how they were abandoned twice.
“Sadly, they were abandoned twice. Yung una, iniwan sila ng mga Tsino na palutang-lutang sa dagat. And after their tragic and horrible experience at sea, we failed to give considerable attention to their testimonies. Kaya yung pangalawa, parang ganun din… iniwan silang palutang-lutang,” the lawmaker lamented. [Hannah L. Torregoza]