By William Casis i FilAm Star Correspondent
Sen. Richard Gordon blasted the Philippine government for bribing the Filipino fishermen to appease them.
He stressed that the gifts only cheapen and exploit the vulnerability of our countrymen and simply show utter disrespect for the dignity and the dire condition of the fishermen.
“What the fishermen need right now are justice and respect from the Chinese and not the government trying to mollify them by giving them gifts, and showing it to the whole world, too,” said Gordon.
He said, “Our strongest position right now in our quest for justice is that everybody agrees that they were abandoned. Imagine, they had to row to the Vietnamese ship to get them rescued. Let us not build China’s defenses for them,” Gordon said.
He also called on government officials not to get out of line in connection with the sinking of a Filipino fishing boat off Recto Bank last June 9 and wait for the Chinese government to present the explanation of their fishermen on the incident.
“And now the Vietnamese are precisely saying that (the Filipino fishermen) were really abandoned. What better proof do we have than that?” he asked.
“(The Chinese) have not even explained to us and we’re telling them that we’re changing our minds that it was intentional. That’s not the point. At the rate this is going, we might end up with the poor Filipino fishermen admitting that they were really trying to commit suicide,” he explained.
The Senator was obviously miffed by Agriculture Sec. Emmanuel Pinol’s press conference with the fishermen and concluding for them that their captain was no longer sure if it was an intentional or accidental collision.
The Senator also stressed that the Departments of Foreign Affairs and National Defense, as well as the Office of the Solicitor General should be left to handle the Chinese so as not to weaken the country’s case.
Meanwhile, to ensure that the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) is capable of immediately coming to the rescue of Filipino fishermen who are in peril at sea, Gordon proposed to allocate additional budget for boosting the agency’s capability.
With the Philippines being a maritime country — having one part land and nine parts body of water as well as, a coastline twice the size of the United States at 36,289 kilometers, — he said the PCG should be well-equipped to patrol its territory.
Aside from having a capable Coast Guard and Navy, he said the country should also have a capable Air Force to protect its territory.
“If we had ships, we would still need a capable air force to protect them, something we don’t have either. Our coastline is twice that of the United States, yet we only have 90 functioning planes to cover it, placing the ration at one rickety plane for every 403 kilometers,” he said.
Sen. Joel Villanueva said the government is in a state of confusion. At first, he said some Cabinet members described the case as a collision.
A few hours later, he said the official line became a “collision.” Then later on, it was called a “maritime incident.” One thing is clear to our minds. “Lest we quibble with words and terms to muddle the issue further,” Villanueva said, “we appeal for clarity among our officials.”
“Twenty-two Filipinos were left for dead at Recto Bank, which is in our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), when their fishing boat was hit by a Chinese vessel. That crew, which we believe should not be in our waters in the first place, must be brought here to the Philippines to be held to account and make amends,” he also said.
For his part, Sen. Bong Go said, “Should there be findings that that there was a deliberate act to harm the Filipino fishing boat, the perpetrators should be made to answer,” he said.
He said the Palace, through Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo, already called on the Chinese government to look into the recent vessel collision. The Philippine government, through Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Sec. Teodoro Locsin, Jr., filed a diplomatic protest following the incident, and is now waiting for China’s response.
President Rodrigo Duterte has already been informed about this incident and is closely monitoring the situation.
“Our stand is to diplomatically work with the Chinese government to investigate the matter fairly, to impose certain measures so that such incidents can be avoided, and to impose sanctions against those behind the recent incident,” Panelo added.