Ramming of PH vessel intentional or accident? Boat captain now unsure
MANILA, Philippines — Far from a fishing boat captain who was so certain that their boat was deliberately rammed by a Chinese vessel in the West Philippine Sea, Junel Insigne, after meeting Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol on Wednesday, seemed to now doubt his own account of what happened to them last June 9.
Piñol arrived in Occidental Mindoro to meet with the 22 fishermen, who were abandoned by the Chinese vessel in the open sea after the ramming incident.
During the subsequent press briefing, Insigne was asked if he still believes the ramming of their boat at Recto (Reed) Bank was intentional.
“Naguguluhan po ako eh,” Insigne replied after a long pause while he bowed his head. “Parang binangga, parang sinadya, parang hindi rin eh.”
“‘Yun po talaga ang sinadya nila, ‘yung pag-iwan nila sa amin,” Insigne added.
According to Piñol, the fishermen could also not agree whether or not their boat, Gem-Vir 1, was deliberately rammed.
“Kanina sa pag-uusap namin, they came up with a position. Number one, hindi nila matukoy ‘yung intentional o accidental ang pangyayari sapagkat ayon kay Richard Blaza, posibleng hindi sila nakita nung barko ng Intsik. Ayon naman sa bang tripulante, posible intentional,” Piñol said.
Piñol added the Filipino fishermen also “agreed” that Blaza offers the most credible story since he was the only one awake before the impact.
“The Recto Bank 22 agree that Richard Blaza offers the most reliable and credible testimony on what actually transpired moments before the impact, being the only crew member who was awake,” he noted.
Asked if the testimony of the other fishermen, aside from Blaza, would still be used in the investigation, Piñol said: “The statements of other fishermen as to what transpired after the impact would be of material importance to the inquiry.”
“But as to the events prior to the impact, because isa lang ang gising, si Richard Blaza lang, sa kanya ang pinaka-credible na statement,” he added.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo earlier took note of the conflicting statements of Insigne and Blaza.
“Kaya kailangan imbestigahan na talaga natin. Formal inquiry na kailangan dito,” Panelo said in a Palace briefing on Tuesday.
“Kasi parang may conflict ‘yung kapitan at ‘yung cook. Kasi tingin ng kapitan, sinadya. Tingin ng cook, mukhang hindi [sila] nakita,” Panelo also said.
The 22 fishermen were left afloat for hours in the open sea after the incident. A Vietnamese vessel was able to rescue them on June 10.
Apology to Duterte
Insigne likewise apologized to President Rodrigo Duterte for mistakenly believing that he was invited to the Palace for a meeting.
Insigne said he learned it was Piñol who wanted to meet with them in Manila.
“Humihingi po ako ng pahumanhin sa ating mahal na Presidente, na hindi po pala ako pinatawag, si Secretary Piñol po ang nagpatawag sa amin. Hindi po ako nakatuloy, umatras po ako dahil masama po ‘yung pakiramdam ko,” Insigne said. (Editor: Katherine G. Adraneda)
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