Archive for July 10, 2019

Ramming of fishing boat by Chinese in 2012 vessel recalled

 By Yolanda Sotelo

DAGUPAN CITY – Seven years before the Recto Reed Bank incident when Filipino fishing boat was rammed by a Chinese vessel, what could be a worse sea incident that also involved a Filipino fishing boat and a Chinese vessel occurred in the West Philippine Sea.

The incident happened on June 18, 2012, along a payaw (fish aggregating device) located 80 nautical miles off Bolinao Pangasinan.
Five of the eight fishermen aboard AXL John died in the marine incident.

The sea turned turbulent a day after the less-than- a-ton fishing boat named AXL John sailed from Bolinao shore.  The local fishing boat was already in distress as it was filled with water from towering waves. The anguished crew were desperately removing the water when their boat was rammed by a vessel marked with Chinese characters.

Like the Chinese vessel that sped off after ramming the FV Gemver, the Chinese vessel that rammed AXL John left the motorized fishing boat in the stormy sea.

Four of the eight fishermen were rescued after four days of drifting in the sea, but one of them died while undergoing treatment at hospital in Vigan City in Ilocos Sur.  The other four went missing and until now, there is no trace of them at all.

The pain caused by the sea incident seven years ago, resurfaced with the ramming once more of another fishing vessel by a Chinese ship.

“When we saw the news about fishing boat Gem-Ver rammed by a Chinese vessel, the memories of that day when we did not know if we will live or die or live,” Edemio Balmores, 47, says. He was AXL John’s captain.

“We hope that there will be a lesson learned by the national government from our experiences – for them to look into the plight of small fishermen like us and prioritize us,” the fisherman from Luna village, said.

Balmores took a time off from fishing after the sea incident and ventured into raising pigs, using a P10,000 financial help from the Department of Social Works and Development to buy four heads of pig.

But he lost the enterprise because he ran out of funds for feeds and had to sell his emaciated in animals. Now he works as a farm hand but still occasionally joins fishing boat trips in the sea.

In the coastal village of Concordia where fishing boats from Bolinao dock, Herman Balmores, 57, lives in the same fishermen’s village near the shore.  Herman, though mainly a fishing boat crew member, was AXL John’s cook.

His voice woefully cracking, he remembers that fateful day when the sea turned unfriendly and he almost lost faith in humanity.

 “We thought the help we badly needed has come,” Herman Balmores, 57, recalls.  “It was our second day in the sea when we were caught by a typhoon. Big waves filled our fishing boat with water. We tried to fight the angry winds and gigantic waves,” he says through tears.

The boat was catching fish in a payaw (fish aggregating device) using hook and line when the weather disturbance arrived and started lashing at their boat. They anchored the boat near the payaw and waited for help.

Then they saw a vessel coming towards them. “At last, help is coming!” they happily waved at the ship.

“Mapupunta yata tayo sa Taiwan,” Herman even joked, when he saw the Chinese characters on the ship. He could not recall however, what kind of flag the vessel carried.

But whatever hope they had at getting rescued was dashed when the vessel rammed at their almost sinking boat. Fighting for their lives, they jumped into the cold water of the West Philippine Sea.

“The Chinese ship did not stop, did not look back, after it rammed our fishing boat. It sped off, leaving us in the erratic sea,” said boat captain Balmores, 47.  He was the last to jump off the boat.

When the Chinese vessel was gone, Herman, Edemio and six other crew of the AXL John scampered back into their almost wrecked fishing boat, grasping and holding tight unto any hard part that could help them stay afloat.

“Napalo pa ako ng katig (I was hit by the outrigger,” Balmores says. “We lost everything, all the food and water. I thought my companions were able to tie our provisions. I was able to tie the bag of rice but there was nowhere to cook and there was no fresh water.”

For four days, the eight fishermen drifted in the sea in the shattered AXL John, until a fishing boat from Ilocos Sur saw them off Poro Point in La Union and helped them. Only four of them were found in the fishing boat – hungry, thirsty and shivering of cold.

The four (one of them later died in the hospital) survivors were brought to the Gabriela Silang General Hospital in Vigan City.

“We do not know anymore what happened to our four companions,” Herman said.

Their relative, Concordia Councilman Romeo Balmores, said one of the crew members named Christopher Carbonnel, died in the hospital.

The two Balmores fishermen and Celino Damian were brought back to Bolinao after medical treatment at the hospital, but Carbonel was left as he was not well yet.

“We were going to fetch him the following day. But the night before, he died,” Romeo Balmores, also a fisherman, said.

After the incident, Herman no longer joined any fishing boat that goes far into the sea. He tried to earn a living by using hook and line, and whatever he caught, his wife sold in the market.

His situation turned worse when two years ago, he suffered from paralysis and could no longer do any kind of fishing activity.

Edemio on the other hand, turned to farming but occasionally joins fishing boats that wander far into the sea.

After the sea incident, he received rice and canned goods from the Department of Social Works and Development, and later, P10,000 cash which he was supposed to use for livelihood activity. The local government of Bolinao also extended financial help.


July 10, 2019 at 6:28 am Leave a comment

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