Senators decry death of 3 fishermen in Scarborough Shoal

(MANILA BULLETIN) Senators on Wednesday, Oct. 4 condemned the recent incident wherein a foreign vessel rammed a Filipino fishing boat within Bajo de Masinloc, resulting in the death of three fishermen. 

Based on the report of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), on Oct. 2, at approximately 4:20 a.m., Filipino Fishing Boat (FFB) Dearyn was rammed by Pacific Anna, a crude oil tanker vessel, registered under the flag of Marshall Islands. PCG said that this is what aligns with the details provided by the fishermen. 

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said that they were extremely outraged and aggrieved by the incident, which resulted in the loss of three innocent lives.

He stated that what is clear is that there has been a disregard for the lives of our fisherfolk, who are simply making a livelihood in the country’s seas.

“We will not rest until we get to the bottom of this incident, and identify the vessel that rammed onto our fisherfolk. If it was an accident, we must figure out whether there was any attempt to assist our fisherfolk at all, as should have been done under international humanitarian laws,” he said.

“I express my deepest sympathies to the families of our three fisherfolk, and I vow to help them seek justice for their loved ones,” he added.

Sen. Francis Tolentino who chairs the Senate Special Committee on Philippine Maritime and Admiralty Zones was saddened by the incident and expressed condolences to the family of the victims. He said that those involved should answer to the law.  

“The need to protect our fisherfolks and our marine resources cannot be overemphasized through the passage of our own Maritime Zone Law and the procurement of the necessary equipment for our Coast Guard as well. We await the results of the investigation being done,” he added.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said that the still seaworthy vessel should have extended assistance to those who were in distress. 

“Our condolences to the grieving families of those who died. I’m sure the government has a program to help them. Also our government can help the families seek and get justice for what happened,” he added.

Sen. Jinggoy Estrada said that he is deeply saddened by this tragic incident. 

“My heartfelt condolences go out to the families of the victims, and my thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time,” he said.

Estrada mentioned that the authorities must conduct a comprehensive and unbiased investigation to ascertain the true circumstances surrounding the tragic event. 

“The safety and well-being of our fishermen must always be a top priority, and those accountable for this incident must be held responsible for their actions,” he stated.

He added that it must be clear whether the incident was an accident or not so that the authorities can take the necessary steps to address it. 

Sen. Risa Hontiveros condemns the incident “in the strongest possible terms” the incident, saying that it is deplorable that the vessel left the Filipino fishing boat and the country’s citizens in the water. 

“This despicable act is an affront to all Filipinos,” she said.

Hontiveros called on the authorities to leave no stone unturned and that those responsible must answer to the law.

“Bajo de Masinloc, since time immemorial, has been a traditional fishing ground of our fisherfolk and is well within the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone. Ito ay karagatang dapat malaya at ligtas sa lahat ng mga mangingisdang naghahanapbuhay (This sea should be free and safe for fisherfolk making a living),” Hontiveros said.

The senator also reiterated her call to increase the intelligence funds of the PCG for the safety and security of Filipinos. She said that the agency greatly needs the funds for security, which is its true purpose.

“Buong-puso ang aking pakikiramay sa lahat ng naiwan ng mga biktima. Kasalukuyang sumisikap mag-ugnay ang mga partner networks namin sa kanila. Sama-sama nating ipaglalaban ang katarungan para sa kanilang pamilya at para na rin sa kalayaan ng lahat ng mga mangingisda sa West Philippine Sea (My heartfelt condelences to the bereaved family. Our partner networks are doing its best to coordinate with them. Let’s all fight for justice for their family and for the freedom of all fishermen in the West Philippine Sea),” Hontiveros said.

Sen. Grace Poe also condemned in the strongest terms the death of three Filipino fishermen as a result of the ramming incident.

“Those found responsible must be meted the appropriate punishment. No one should escape the long arm of the law,” she said.

Poe called on the country’s maritime authorities to increase its presence in the Philippine waters and strictly monitor local vessels sailing to fish to ensure their safety.

“Nararapat ang dagdag na proteksyon lalo na sa maliliit nating mangingisda na naglalayag sa kabila ng panganib para lang mabuhay (There must be additional protection for our fisherman who venture out despite the dangers just to make a living),” she added.