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UP Visayas fisheries folk hit ‘downplaying’ of Recto Bank incident

Gem-Ver 1

A closer look at the damaged fantail of the Philippine fishing boat Gem-Ver 1. (Photo from the Philippine Navy)

MANILA, Philippines — Students, faculty members, and alumni of College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences at the University of the Philippines Visayas condemned what they called as the “subsequent downplaying” of the Duterte administration of the incident that left 22 Filipino fishermen abandoned at sea after a Chinese vessel sunk their boat at Recto Bank.

In a statement on Wednesday, the National Union of Students of the Philippine (NUSP) said that over 200 students, faculty members, and alumni of the UP Visayas community signed a unity statement on the issue.

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The lives of the 22 Filipino fishermen were put to risk when they were left floating in the West Philippine Sea for hours after a Chinese vessel reportedly rammed their boat last June 9.

“The recent incident just proves how Filipino fishers are treated with utter disrespect and afforded little dignity by the Chinese fishers. What is more damning is the fact that the area is very well part of the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and yet our fishers cannot even sail close and exercise their exclusive rights to fish in the said waters,” the unity statement read.

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“The Duterte administration had shied away from protesting the said actions of the Chinese, and had not even sent gray ships in the area to assert our sovereignty,” it added.

President Rodrigo Duterte called the incident a “little maritime accident,” which drew criticisms for the supposed soft stance from the usually tough-talking chief executive.

READ: Duterte: Sinking of PH fishing boat ‘a little maritime accident’

The members of the UP Visayas community also slammed other “betrayals” of the administration on the fisheries sector and the fisherfolk — including “the forgotten promise to create the Department of Fisheries to develop the long-neglected and undervalued fisheries sector“ as well as “the implementation of TRAIN (Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion) Law which further burdened and impoverished poor fishers,” among others.

“We cannot wait for any more blatant disregard of our fisherfolk before taking a stand against these oppressive responses of the Duterte administration,” the statement read.

“Seeing how the government treats the fisheries sector and the fisherfolk, we are inclined to believe that this administration puts the interest of the Chinese first rather than making the Filipino fishers and WPS a priority,” it added.

Meanwhile, the NUSP said it stood firm in its “anti-imperialist sentiments.”

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“The top fisheries school in the Philippines has taken a firm stance in the issue regarding Duterte’s betrayal not only to the Filipino fisherfolk but to the country’s citizens as well,” the group said.

The NUSP likewise encouraged students “to take a stand against the attacks on our national sovereignty.”

(Editor: Alexander T. Magno)

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