PCG faces blank wall on identities of 7 rescued Chinese

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) could still not determine the exact identities of the seven Chinese individuals who were rescued off Suluan Island in Guiuan, Eastern Samar last Friday, Jan. 27.

(Photo courtesy of PCG)

It turns out that the Chinese individuals may not be simple fishermen as earlier reported by the PCG since the vessel that they used – Kai Da 899 – points to a tanker vessel which is used to carry fuel such as gasoline or diesel, and not a fishing boat.

“Right now, we still could not finalize what type of vessel it is but the way we see it, it’s a tanker vessel,” Commodore Jay Tarriela, PCG spokesperson on the West Philippine Sea, said in a radio interview with dzBB on Sunday, Jan. 29.

Tarriela described a tanker vessel as a ship which has many pipes and hoses that are used in loading and discharging fuel while at sea.

“The structure of the ship matches that of a tanker vessel. But we have yet to ascertain this because as of this time, we still could not get the ship’s documents,” he explained.

No documents

Adding to the suspicion, the rescued Chinese individuals could not also provide the necessary documents such as passport, seaman’s passbook, and license that are needed to verify their identities.

“As of this time, we cannot get any document from the crew of the ship, even the master mariner or ship captain could not provide his license, much more their passport. They have no immigration documents whatsoever,” Tarriela revealed.

“They have given their names but they have no immigration documents so we cannot really verify if what they saying is true,” he added.

Tarriela said the PCG already coordinated with the Bureau of Immigration (BI), Bureau of Customs (BOC), and even the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to help identify the Chinese individuals as they consider all possibilities to determine the true intent of the ship as it sailed in the Philippines’ territorial waters including oil smuggling, human smuggling, drug smuggling, and terrorism.

“I am not saying that they have done all of these but these are possibilities that we cannot discount. We are looking at all the angles so we cannot tell the public yet why this ship ended up in Eastern Samar,” he noted.

The Chinese told the investigators that they came from Bashi Channel, a waterway in the Luzon Strait between the Philippines and Taiwan, before the hull of their vessel was damaged and they ended up floating at sea.

They were rescued off Suluan Island in Guiuan, Eastern Samar and the PCG received information that the Chinese have been stranded for four days before they were saved.

For now, the Chinese were restricted onboard the Kai Da 899 and guarded by Coast Guard personnel while an investigation on their identities was ongoing. The PCG also got an interpreter to aid in the probe.

The PCG have also began using their automatic identification system (AIS) to track the origin of the vessel. He explained that AIS is a ship tracker which uses satellite information to pinpoint the origin, destination, and reason for sailing or a particular vessel.

“There will be a conclusion where exactly they encountered troubles at sea, and why they ended up in the waters of Eastern Samar,” Tarriela said.

“But one problem is if the ship turned off its AIS. We would not be able to get a very reliable information from them,” he added.