MANILA - The Filipino crew of a boat that figured in an allision with a Chinese ship near the Recto (Reed) Bank will receive new fishing boats, Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol said Tuesday.
Eleven fishing boats with gears will be distributed to the 22 fishermen along with financial aid, Piñol told ABS-CBN News.
The fishermen were abandoned at sea by a Chinese crew after sinking their boat, F/B GEM-VER, last June 9 in the West Philippine Sea, part of the disputed South China Sea. They were rescued by a Vietnamese vessel.
Piñol, who is tasked to head government response to the incident, is set to meet with the fishermen anew on Wednesday along with Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, according to Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles.
The Department of Agriculture will give the fishermen P550,000 in financial assistance while the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation will help in providing cold storage facilities for the fishermen's boats, Piñol explained.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development will also provide financial assistance, he said.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Tuesday assured the fishermen that their concerns were not being belittled even as the government began to entertain doubts on whether the allision was intentional.
"Hindi naman nabale-wala, gaya na nga nang paulit-ulit na nating sinasabi… unang-una, kung nabale-wala iyon, ‘di sana hindi na sila tinutulungan. Tinutulungan na nga sila eh, ‘di ba?" Panelo said.
(They are not being set aside. Like what I repeatedly say, if they are being set aside, then we wouldn't have extended any help. But we're already helping them, aren't we?)
The Filipino fishermen have been insisting their vessel was rammed, but the Chinese government has said it was not a hit-and-run.
The Philippines last week filed a diplomatic protest against China over the incident.