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Bacolod City, Philippines Thursday, July 11, 2019
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with Benjamin Calderon


Rock & Refuge

We know how much resources and efforts were exerted by our parents, teachers and mentors to help mold us to become the Filipino citizens that we are today. We can relate to flag-raising ceremonies, our Panatang Makabayan, singing Lupang Hinirang, cheering for “winning victories in the classroom,

on the court, the track, the field” that brought honor, pride and joy to our nation. I can still remember the lesson of our country being called the “Pearl of the Orient Seas”.

We, as a people, do have our own unique journey from history to the present. Looking back, I can still remember the awe of historical milestones that provided heroic sacrifices and endured pain, from the plane crush of President Ramon Magsaysay, the Plaza Miranda bombing, Martial Law, and the plane crush of the very promising Secretary Jesse Robredo. Now we are being told to swallow the ramming of a Filipino fishing boat named Gem-Ver 1 by Chinese trawler the Yuemaobinyu 42212 of Guandong province, as identified by the Chinese Embassy, as mere maritime traffic incident, and not as an example or clue of how the Chinese treat the Filipino over the conflicting claims of the West Philippine Sea.

An editorial of a national daily opined, “Call them the Downplay Duo. Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo have become the headliners of the administration’s merry jig to minimize the culpability of the Chinese vessel that rammed a Filipino fishing boat in Reed Bank on June 9, and conversely find ways to blame the Filipino fishermen for the incident.”

Let us consider the Philippine Coast Guard and Maritime Industry Authority (MIA)’s findings on the incident, Locsin was heard intoning on TV that the report “doesn’t paint our fishermen in the brightest light.” The report described the sinking of the Gem-Ver 1 as a “Very Serious Marine Casualty due to the total loss of ship due to the following: “the fact that the other fishing vessel hit the anchored fishing banca is an indication that they did not perform necessary actions prescribed in Rule 18 (a) to prevent the incident” — referring to rules under the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.

The second part is the crux of the matter, and what most sticks in the craw: that the Chinese left the Filipino fishermen in distress — but not before it circled back, apparently to check whether the Filipino boat had indeed gone under. “By maneuvering back and stopping approximately 50 meters away from FB ‘GEM-VER’ with her fishing lights open, the other vessel can be considered to have direct knowledge of the distress situation,” said the report. But, according to the fishermen, the Chinese vessel then turned off its lights and fled the scene.

In my opinion, given what we now know of the incident the response of our Government to this incident is very un-Filipino.

To end let us be careful with trying demand that personal rules are complied with and show how tough and witty one can be with this anecdote to encourage us to be humble. The old and bold Chief Bosun noticed a new apprentice seaman one day and barked at him to come to attention. 'What is your name?' was the first thing the Chief asked the youngster. 'Bert,' the seaman replied. The Chief scowled, 'Look, I don't know what kind of bleeding-heart, liberal pansy stuff they're teaching in boot camp today, but I don't call anyone by their first name. It breeds familiarity and that leads to a breakdown in authority. I refer to my crewmen by their last name only - Smith, Jones, Thomas, Baker - that's all. I am to be referred to only as "Sir." Do I make myself clear?' 'Yes, sir,' snapped the seaman. 'Good. Now that we got that straight, what is your last name?' The seaman recruit sighed and said, 'Darling. My name is Bert Darling, sir.' 'Okay, Bert, the next thing I want to tell you is ... ... ...'*

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