MANILA — Authorities on Tuesday flew over the West Philippine Sea in search of 7 missing fishermen, 2 of whom were among those who raised the alarm on China's alleged mass pillaging of giant clams in the resource-rich waterway last year.
The crew of fishing boat Narem2 had been missing since Jan. 13, after they sent a radio message saying they would head home in fear of rough waves, said boat owner Kristine Macaraeg.
"Ang hirap mawalan ng pamilya... Ang sakit kasi itinuturing ko na silang pamilya ko," added Narem2 co-owner Jacinto Gabriel.
(It's hard to lose family members. It's painful because I consider them my family.)
Two members of the Narem2 crew in April 2019 accompanied ABS-CBN News to Scarborough Shoal, where wooden trawlers bearing the Chinese flag extracted giant clams while the Chinese Coast Guard allegedly drove Filipino fishermen away.
The Philippine Coast Guard's aerial survey on Tuesday found 5 Chinese ships and a different fishing boat in Scarborough, but not Narem2.
"Hanggang kaya pa ay hahanapin namin sila. Naiintindihan namin iyong pangangailangan na makauwi sila sa kanilang pamilya," said PCG-Northwestern Luzon Commander Capt. Charlie Rances.
(We will search for them for as long as we can. We understand the need for them to return to their families.)
A United Nations-backed court in 2016 junked Beijing's "historic rights" to nearly 90 percent of the resource-rich waterway. However, the tribunal has no enforcement mechanism and China has refused to recognize the ruling.
- Report from Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News