Stand with Pinoy fishermen, bishops urge gov’t

Stand with Pinoy fishermen, bishops urge gov’t

The 22 Filipino fishermen in the Recto Bank collision aboard a ship en route to Mindoro, June 14, 2019. PHOTO FROM DA SEC. MANNY PIÑOL’S FACEBOOK PAGE

By Roy Lagarde

June 18, 2019

Manila, Philippines

Catholic bishops challenged the government to stand with Filipino fishermen whose boat was rammed and sunk by a Chinese vessel near Recto Bank.

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said the government cannot leave the fishermen in lurch as it is obliged to intervene to protect their interest.

“The government has a duty to protect its citizens and its territory. It should not allow itself to be bullied and let its people suffer,” Pabillo said.

The bishop was reacting to President Rodrigo Duterte’s remark that seemed to downplay the June 9 incident in the West Philippine Sea.

Breaking his silence on the issue, Duterte on Monday appealed for calm over what he called a “little maritime incident”.

In a speech during the Philippine Navy’s 121st anniversary celebration in Sangley Point, he said that tension should not be allowed between two countries just because of a collision of two boats.

“Maritime incident is a maritime incident. It is best investigated. And I do not now issue statement because there is no investigation and there is no result,” Duterte said.

“The only thing we can do is to wait and give the other party the right to be heard. That’s important,” he added.

Bishop Pabillo urged the government to use its diplomatic channels to hold accountable the Chinese crew involved in the incident.

“The government should send the message that this is a serious matter that should be resolved and not be treated only as a mere incident,” he said.

Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon said the government’s treatment on the issue shows its bias for China.

“Duterte is selective in dispensing justice,” Bastes said. “This is a sign that his judgement cannot be relied upon on serious moral and social issues.”