Filipino boat captain mum on Duterte’s latest pronouncements

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 28 2019 12:26 PM | Updated as of Jun 28 2019 02:45 PM

F/B GEM-VER Captain Jonel Insigne reacts during a press briefing with the Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industries Incorporated (FFCCCII) at the Anabel's Restaurant in Quezon City on June 28, 2019. The fishermen attended the briefing to receive support from the Filipino-Chinese community, who showed their support in terms of cash and public assistance for the fishermen's families and their barangay. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The captain of a Filipino boat sunken by a Chinese vessel earlier this month refused to comment on the latest pronouncements of President Rodrigo Duterte on the incident.

Junel Insigne, captain of the sunken F/B GEM-VER, only thanked members of the Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc. after the group gave them P1.45 million in money donation and other forms of livelihood assistance.

Insigne had criticized Duterte’s description of the June 9 ramming Reed Bank (Recto Bank) as a “maritime incident”.

However, as the Filipino-Chinese business group presented his group in a forum in Quezon City, Insigne refused to issue a statement as reporters asked him about Duterte’s description of the incident as mere “sideswipe.”

Instead, Insigne and boat owner Felix dela Torre read prepared statements thanking FFCCCII.

“Kaming 22 mangingisda ay nagpapasalamat sa FFCCCII para sa inyong tulong sa amin at sa aming mga pamilya. Ang krisis na ito ay talagang nakaapekto sa aming pangkabuhayan at kinabukasan,” Insigne said.

“Nagpapasalamat ako sa Filipino-Chinese community sa pamamagitan ng pagka-bukas palad ng FFCCCII.”

Insigne said repairing their boat might take months and the cash assistance given by FFCCCII would help them greatly.

FFCCCI President Henry Lim Bon Liong denied that the fishermen were coerced to read the statements, saying the media are always free to interview them in their hometown in Occidental Mindoro.

As this developed, Insigne’s wife, Lanie, said she is OK with the possible impeachment of President Rodrigo Duterte after the latter said he will not stop Chinese poachers from fishing in the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

She said she was irked to hear the President's statement defending Chinese poachers who intrude into Philippine waters.

Insigne and his crew were left out at sea after their boat was hit by a Chinese vessel while berthed in the waters off Recto Bank, which is within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone.

An EEZ, under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, guarantees the country’s exclusive rights to the natural resources in the area.

The Chinese Embassy in Manila earlier denied that the Chinese vessel's crew abandoned the Filipinos at sea after ramming the GEMVER-1. It said the Chinese captain attempted to rescue the Filipino fishermen but was "afraid of being besieged by other Filipino fishing boats."

It was a Vietnamese ship which rescued the 22 Filipino fishermen.

Critics have said Duterte’s recent pronouncements can be made as basis for his impeachment.