Coast Guard report on Recto Bank incident offered ‘fair assessment’, says expert

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 06 2019 11:59 PM | Updated as of Jul 07 2019 10:40 AM

According to maritime expert Jay Batongbacal, the Coast Guard report mentioned F/B GEMVER’s shortcomings, among them the absence of a lookout when the boat was anchored. But Batongbacal said: “I do not agree na it paints a bad picture of our fishermen.” Aaron Favila, AP

MANILA (UPDATE) - A maritime expert on Saturday said he believes a report detailing the joint investigation into the Recto Bank incident made a “fair” evaluation of the allision between a Chinese vessel and a Filipino boat in the West Philippine Sea last month.

The report was furnished based on the probe conducted by the Philippine Coast Guard and the Maritime Industry Authority.

“Sa pagkakabasa ko du’n sa report, medyo fair naman ’yung kanilang assessment based on the facts that were available to them,” said Jay Batongbacal, director of the Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea at University of the Philippines.

He added that the copy he obtained was “leaked.”

According to Batongbacal, who was speaking at a forum in Quezon City, the report mentioned F/B GEMVER’s shortcomings, among them the absence of a lookout when the boat was anchored.

But Batongbacal said despite the Filipino fishermen’s inadequacies, he believes the report wasn’t an indictment on them.

“I do not agree na it paints a bad picture of our fishermen,” Batongbacal said.

“So maaari nga rason ang Coast Guard na magsabi nagkaroon ng omissions, pero ang importante hindi ’yung ang proximate cause nu’ng pagkabangga, nu’ng incident. It really was on the other side.”

He added: “But on the other hand, hindi naman dapat sila (Filipino fishermen) ang sisihin na sila ang may kasalanan, dahil in the first place, hindi naman dapat nandu’n ’yung nakabangga sa kanila . . . At ’yun nga, sila ’yung naka-anchor, sila ’yung nakahinto, hindi sila ’yung may responsibility na mag-move away, ’yung kabila.”

Batongbacal noted a section of the report referring to the Chinese vessel switching off its lights during the allision.

“Pinoint out din ng Coast Guard na kahit ba naging lax sila (the Filipino fishermen) na wala silang lookout, nu’ng nabangga na sila ay iniwan pa rin sila,” Batongbacal said.

“Inilawan sila tapos pinatayan ng ilaw at tinakbuhan. So ’yun, lalo pang aggravating ’yun.”

Batongbacal said the report tackled only maritime safety.

“Wala diyan ’yung issue ng poaching, ’yung dahilan kung bakit nandoon ’yung nakabangga. Hindi covered ’yan ng investigation,” he said, adding that the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources should be in charge of such matters.

“Merong report at may pag-aamin na nagkaroon ng illegal foreign fishing sa loob ng Reed Bank, dapat BFAR ang aaksyon doon.”

-- With a report from Arra Perez, ABS-CBN News