Malacañang, PCG at odds over ship in ramming incident
Malacañang and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) are at loggerheads over the identity of the ship that supposedly rammed a Filipino fishing boat off Bolinao, Pangasinan, last week that left one fisherman dead and four others missing.
At a press briefing Tuesday, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said that a Hong Kong-registered vessel likely ran over the fishing boat but it was not the Hong Kong-registered “M/V Peach Mountain” as the PCG suspected.
“Based on the route and the speed by which the vessel was plying that route, it appears–this is from (Defense) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin–it is not Peach Mountain that rammed the vessel that hit those fishermen,” said Lacierda.
“It is another Hong Kong-registered vessel and we’re still looking at it and there’s a continuing investigation as to what particular vessel hit the fishermen,” he added.
Based on the ship’s route and speed given to the Philippine Navy, “… we are able to compute and to determine with a great degree of certainty that… (M/V Peach Mountain) was not responsible for the incident,” the Palace official said.
Meanwhile, a PCG official said there was circumstantial evidence that the Peach Mountain might have been responsible for last week’s ramming incident.
In phone interview with GMA News Online on Tuesday, PCG spokesman Lieutenant Commander Armando Balilo said the Peach Mountain was the closest suspect the PCG had in the incident.
He cited the Hong Kong markings on the Peach Mountain that survivors saw on the ship that hit them.
PCG eyes six other ships
PCG eyes six other ships
Balilo reiterated, however, that despite the vessel being the prime suspect based on preliminary PCG investigations, it is still not tagged as the culprit.
He said the Northern Luzon Coast Guard District is planning on investigating five or six other ships, one of which may have been the one responsible for the ramming. However, he was unable to name these other ships as he does not have additional information as of now.
“The (Peach Mountain) is not from here, so it is not that easy to get information,” said Balilo. “We are still in the process of coordination with Hong Kong and the Northern Luzon PCG.
“We’re still gathering information even at this time,” he said, citing PCG efforts to coordinate with the Japan Coast Guard and the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia or ReCAAP for information that may help the PCG with its investigation.
Lacierda said the investigating team of the Philippine Navy are limiting themselves at the moment to Hong Kong-registered vessels after the fishermen involved in the incident identified the marking “Hong Kong” in the vessel that rammed into their fishing vessel last June 20 and left them at sea.
He said the investigation would also determine if what happened was an accident or not.
Eight Filipino fishermen from Bolinao went fishing on board Axl John last June 18–despite rough seas–when they were reportedly rammed by a bigger vessel, initially suspected to be of Chinese origin. The survivors said they were taking shelter in a fish sanctuary off Bolinao on June 20 when the incident happened.
The fishing vessel sank and four of the eight fishermen were rescued last June 23 in the vicinity of Magsingal in Ilocos Sur. One of the four rescued later died in the hospital. —VS, GMA News
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