By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
Vice President Leni Robredo on Friday went to Occidental Mindoro to meet and hold a dialogue with the 22-member crew of F/B Gem-Ver 1 who were on board the fishing boat that sank after it was hit by a Chinese vessel in the West Philippine Sea last June 9.
Aside from holding a dialogue, the Office of the Vice President (OVP) confirmed that Robredo also gave each of the 22 fishermen P50,000 cash assistance sourced from her office’s anti-poverty flagship program called “AngatBuhay.” The “AngatBuhay” is OVP’s initiative to give assistance to communities that are in need. The funds and other resources used for the program are sourced from OVP partners – primarily from the private sector.
In an earlier statement, Robredo expressed her “deepest outrage” at the incident wherein a Philippine fishing vessel was “rammed” by a Chinese ship near Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea. “We condemn in the strongest possible terms the irresponsible actions of the Chinese crew involved in the incident, and express our most profound disappointment at the refusal of the Chinese government to acknowledge the culpability of those responsible for sinking the Philippine fishing vessel and abandoning its crew,” she said. “Those involved must be made accountable in accordance with the pertinent international treaties and Philippine laws,” she added.
Robredo also urged the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to “demand from the Chinese government to find those responsible and recognize Philippine jurisdiction, so they can face trial before our courts.” She added that “justice for the 22 Filipino fishermen requires that our courts assume jurisdiction.”
Robredo’s visit to the fishermen happened a few days after Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol met with them. Boats and a loan amounting to P25,000 were also given to the fishermen during the DA Chief’s visit.