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Accident or intentional? Pinoy fishers from Reed Bank incident now uncertain

The Filipino fishermen whose boat was hit by a Chinese fishing vessel in Recto Bank seemed to have changed their tune about the June 9 incident.

A report on GMA News’ 24 Oras said the fishermen on Wednesday met with Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, who visited them in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro to check up on them and extend government assistance.

FB Gem-Vir 1 boat captain Junel Insigne earlier claimed the Chinese vessel rammed their stationary boat. He said he was convinced that the collision was intentional on the part of the Chinese. "Kung sa akin sinadya po 'yon,"  Junel Insigne earlier told GMA News.

It was also clear to him that the vessel sailed away, abandoning them after the collision. "Nu'ng nakita po kaming lubog na, saka po kami iniwanan." The fishermen were eventually rescued by a Vietnamese vessel.

But following their meeting with Piñol on Wednesday, Insigne said he was no longer sure about what had exactly happened at sea.

Insigne said he probably got carried away when he previously insisted the Chinese vessel intentionally rammed their boat.

"Medyo naguguluhan po ako eh... Parang binangga parang hindi rin po," he said.

"Bukod sa sobrang sama ng loob ko po talaga dahil iniwan po kami," he added.

The boat captain also denied he turned down a supposed invitation from President Rodrigo Duterte to meet with them. As it turned out, it was Piñol, and not the President, who wanted to meet with them.

"Humihingi po ako ng paumanhin sa ating mahal na Presidente na hindi po pala ako pinatawag nya kundi si Sec. Piñol ang nagpatawag sa akin. Hindi po ako tumuloy, umatras po ako dahil masama ang pakiramdam ko," Insigne said.

Following their meeting, Piñol said he would order the release of P25,000 for each of the 22 fishermen under the Survival Response (SURE) Loan Program to "help them recover from their losses after the unfortunate incident."

They will also be getting new fiber glass boats with accessories from the DA-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, and additional funding from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation.

The Recto Bank incident caused the fishermen and the boat owners over P2 million worth of damages. It included about three tons of fish with estimated worth of P1 million; P500,000 in capital; and P700,000 for the fishing boat. — MDM, GMA News