MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo is set to visit on Friday, June 21, the 22 fishermen of F/B Gem-Ver, the boat that was rammed and sunk by a Chinesse vessel in the West Philippine Sea.
This was confirmed to Rappler by Robredo's spokesperson Barry Gutierrez.
"Yup... As far as I understand, dialogue is the main agenda," Gutierrez said when asked to confirm Robredo's scheduled visit to Occidental Mindoro on Friday.
The Vice President's dialogue with the fishermen comes two days after Gem-Ver captain Junel Insigne, in the presence of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, said he is now unsure if a Chinese ship intentionally sank their vessel in Recto Bank (Reed Bank) in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Insigne made the statement after Piñol met with him and the rest of his crew in a closed-door meeting held in a house surrounded by cops.
Days before Insigne met with one of President Rodrigo Duterte's Cabinet members, the captain was insisting the Chinese vessel intentionally rammed their boat and left his crew floating at sea.
The crew of a Vietnamese vessel later rescued the Filipino fishermen.
Duterte has dismissed the sinking of the Gem-Ver fishing boat as a "maritime incident," enraging critics who said the Duterte government is adopting a China-friendly policy at the expense of the West Philippine Sea.
This is a far cry from Robredo's position on the matter. The Vice President had expressed her "deepest outrage" over the sinking of the Philippine fishing boat.
"We condemn in the strongest possible terms the irresponsible actions of the Chinese crew involved in the incident, and express our most profound disappointment at the refusal of the Chinese government to acknowledge the culpability of those responsible for sinking the Philippine fishing vessel and abandoning its crew," Robredo said on Sunday, June 16.
Found in the West Philippine Sea, Recto Bank is coveted by China but belongs to the Philippines based on a 2016 international ruling.
Malacañang on Thursday, June 20, said the President has given a thumbs up to the suggestion of the Chinese government for Manila and Beijing to conduct a joint investigation into the incident. – Rappler.com