Duterte admin asked to ensure Recto Bank is strictly for Filipino fishers
MANILA, Philippines — Mindoro fishermen, whose boat was rammed by a Chinese vessel in the West Philippine Sea last June 9, have asked the Duterte administration to make sure Recto (Reed) Bank is strictly for Filipino fishers.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol disclosed this Wednesday, following his meeting with the 22 fishermen. Recto Bank – a traditional fishing ground of the fishermen – is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
“The fishermen are…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,” Piñol said in a press briefing in Occidental Mindoro.
He said he would include the fishermen’s request in his report to President Rodrigo Duterte.
“Ang sinasabi nila, humihingi sila ng tulong sa ating Pangulo na kung pwede ay masiguro na ‘yung area na ‘yan, which is within our exclusive economic zone, be made exclusive for Filipino fishermen, ‘yun ang kanilang kahilingan,” Piñol noted.
Citing information from the fishermen, Piñol said foreign fishing vessels only started fishing in the area in 2014.
Hold Chinese crew accountable
Piñol further said the fishermen wants the Duterte administration to hold the Chinese fishermen “criminally liable” for abandoning them at sea.
“They asked me to relay to the President their emotional and ardent request to make representations with the Chinese government, so that the captain and the crew members of the Chinese vessel… be held accountable, liable, criminally, because of that act of abandonment,” Piñol said.
For Piñol, the Chinese crew’s abandonment of Filipino fishermen is “illegal” under international maritime laws as it is “immoral” under human laws.
“But the most important issue that we discussed today and I join them in saying this – we denounce the act of the Chinese vessel in abandoning the fishermen in distress. Regardless of whether it was accidental or intentional, there is no justification to the act of the Chinese vessel to abandon the Filipino fishermen who were already in distress,” he pointed out.
After ramming the Filipino fishing boat, the Chinese vessel left the scene and abandoned all 22 Filipino fishermen whose boat was already sinking. The fishers held on for dear life for several hours in the open sea before a Vietnamese vessel arrived and rescued them. (Editor: Katherine G. Adraneda)
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