WESTCOM to investigate collision in West Philippine Sea

Published June 13, 2019, 12:12 AM

by Ellalyn De Vera & Richa Noriega

By Francis Wakefield

The spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Western Command (AFP-WestCom) Wednesday said that the command through Joint Task Force West will conduct an inquiry to determine how a Chinese vessel collided with a Filipino vessel near the Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea on the evening of June 9, 2019.

Lt. Col. Stephen Penetrante, the acting spokesman of the Western Command, said that part of the inquiry is to document the evidence for the possible filing of diplomatic complaints if the alleged information against the Chinese vessel is true and that it did not even bother to stop and rescue the 22 Filipino crew on board the fishing vessel.

“There will be an initial inquiry which is to be done by our Joint Taskforce West kasi napakahalaga ng ating inquiry [the inquiry is very important] to document it and to see what are the loopholes dito sa mga [of the] Chinese vessel na ito, kung ano ang kanilang pagkukulang ano po [and what are their shortcoming] and at ‘yung WesCom po is dini-discharge po natin ‘yung duties na pag protect dito sa ating interest [and WestCom is discharging its duties to protect our interest],” Penetrante said.

Penetrante said that based on the information they received from the headquarters, the captain of fishing boat 76 stated that a certain Chinese vessel accidentally collided with a Filipino fishing boat at around 12 midnight of June 9, 2019.

He said the fishing boat named F/B GIMVER 1 owned by one Felix dela Torre of San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, was anchored at the time at Recto Bank when it was hit by the Chinese vessel. Following the collision, the Chinese vessel immediately left and escaped the scene.

“So parang hit and run [So it was like a hit and run]. There were 22 fishermen on this boat that were rescued by a Vietnamese fishing vessel and they are now in the stable condition,” Penetrante said

Penetrante said after immediately receiving the report, WesCom coordinated with F/B GIMVER and also contacted its sister ship AG THANKSGIVING. At around 2 p.m. of June 10, the 22 fishermen were then rescued and transferred to its sister ship.

He said if it was an accidental collision, the SOP (standard operating procedure) should be stopping and then rescuing the fishermen.

“Nung tinamaan nila yung FB GIMVER 1 ay ano po sila dederetso sila eh, hindi nila tinigilan, hindi sila tumigil. That’s why nagpadala po ‘yung WesCom natin ng unit ‘yung Joint Task Force West [When FB GIMVER 1 was hit they just went straight, they didn’t stop. That’s why WesCom sent our unit Joint Task Force West],” Penetrante said

Penetrante said that based on the accounts of the Filipino fishermen, the Chinese vessel was the one who collided with their ship.

“Very near sila kasi sila ‘yung victim. Pangalawa po, ‘yung nag sumbong po ay fishing boat natin 076 at pagkatapos po ‘yung Vietnamese po na nag rescue. So ibig sabihin po na identify talaga, na identify dun, ng mga ito din kasi nandun po sila sa area,” he said

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier said that an accidental collision between a Chinese and Filipino vessel was reported by Filipino fishermen near the Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea on the evening of June 9, 2019.

The collision sank the Filipino fishing boat F/B GIMVER 1.

In a statement, Lorenzana denounced the actions of the Chinese fishing vessel for immediately leaving the incident scene and abandoning 22 Filipino crewmen to the mercy of the elements after it accidentally collided with the Filipino fishing vessel.

According to a report, GIMVER 1 was anchored at the time when it was hit by the Chinese fishing vessel.

Fortunately, a Vietnamese fishing vessel was in the vicinity and rescued all 22 fishermen and brought them to safety in coordination with the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Western Command (AFP-WestCom).

The Defense chief said that BRP Ramon Alcaraz, which was conducting a routine maritime patrol in the area, was ordered to assist in the recovery of F/B GIMVER 1 and its crew.

“We thank the captain and crew of Vietnamese vessel, for saving the lives of the 22 Filipino crew. However, 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

“We call for the conduct of a formal investigation on the matter and for diplomatic steps be taken to prevent a repeat of this incident,” he added.