Senators demand justice for Filipino fishermen killed in Bajo de Masinloc incident

(RAPPLER) MANILA, Philippines – Senators on Wednesday, October 4, demanded justice for the three Filipino fishermen who were killed when a commercial vessel hit their fishing boat in Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal) in the West Philippine Sea.

Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri said in a statement that the Senate 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. 

“We are extremely outraged and aggrieved by the fatal ramming of an unidentified vessel on a Filipino fishing vessel in the West Philippine Sea, resulting in the loss of three innocent lives,” Zubiri added. 

The Philippine Coast Guard indentified that the commercial vessel involved in the incident as crude tanker Pacific Anna registered under the flag of the Marshall Islands. 

The incident happened at 4:30 am on Monday, October 2, and the PCG received the report the next day, after the surviving crew members of fishing boat Dearyn, with the remains of their dead companions, arrived in Barangay Cato in Infanta, Pangasinan. 

Senators Grace Poe and Jinggoy Estrada also condemned the incident, saying that those responsible for the death of the fishermen must be held accountable. 

“The authorities must conduct a comprehensive and unbiased investigation to ascertain the true circumstances surrounding this 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,” Estrada said. 

Poe reiterated calls for increased military presence in the West Philippine Sea and “strictly monitor local vessels sailing to fish to ensure their safety.”

For Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros, the government should allot more funds for the PCG for the safety and security of Filipino fisherfolk. 

Kailangang-kailangan ng PCG ng pondo para sa seguridad, na siya namang tunay na silbi ng intelligence funds,” she said. (The PCG needs funds for security that is really the purpose of intelligence funds.)

The House and the Senate have agreed to reallocate confidential and intelligence funds to agencies fighting for fishermen’s rights, amid rising tensions in the West Philippine Sea. Critics have pointed out that PCG was much more deserving of confidential funds than the Sara Duterte-led Office of the Vice President and Department of Education. 

Following the incident, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the Philippines would “exert every effort to hold accountable those who are responsible.” –