PCG stresses investigations ongoing as Pinoys question boat ramming incident report

October 4, 2023 - 6:19 PM
PCG_boat ramming
Victims of a boat ramming incident off Bajo de Masinloc at the West Philippine Sea on Oct. 2, 2023 as posted by the Philippine Coast Guard on Facebook (coastguardph/Facebook)

The Philippine Coast Guard stressed that the boat ramming incident that cost the lives of three Filipino fishermen is still being investigated following questions about its uploaded incident report on social media.

The PCG initially said that Fishing Boat (FB) Dearyn was capsized on Monday, October 2 by an unidentified foreign commercial vessel transiting 85 nautical miles (157 kilometers) northwest of the disputed Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal) in the West Philippine Sea.

The incident occurred at around 4:20 a.m. on that day.

It caused the fishing boat to capsize, resulting in the deaths of boat captain Dexter Laudencia, 47, and crew members Romeo Mejeco, 38; and Benedicto Olandria, 62.

FB Dearyn was moored to a floating fish aggregating device before the incident happened.

Eleven Filipino fishermen survived the ramming.

The fishermen used their service boats to transport the deceased victims to Infanta town in Pangasinan and arrived on Tuesday morning. They then reported the incident to a PCG substation.

PCG also posted an incident report on its Facebook page, but this was met with questions by a Filipino who took note of the alleged revisions.

“@coastguardph, the 1st incident report did not mention an ‘accidental’ ramming of the Filipino fishing boat. The updated one mentioned the Pacific Anna and an ‘accidental collision.’ The third update has no tanker and no accident mentioned. Please clarify,” Marvie Basilan, a Filipino reporter from the International Business Times, wrote.

“The Bajo de Masinloc incident is a serious matter. The first two incident reports no longer exist on Facebook. How can anyone be held accountable if there is no transparency or incident reports are confusing? #ScarboroughShoal,” she added.

Basilan later corrected herself and said that the latest update mentions it as an “accidental raming” but “no longer has the Pacific Anna.”

She also brought this concern in the comments section of the PCG’s Facebook post featuring the incident report.

“With all due respect po to our PCG, where is the updated incident report that you posted regarding the ramming of the Filipino fishing boat? The first report did not mention an accidental collision. Kindly re-post the original incident report and the updated one separately for transparency. Thank you and looking forward to the investigation’s results,” Basilan said.

Her comment was liked by two Facebook users.

PCG responded by saying it deleted the initial one uploaded “to avoid miscommunication,” adding that it is an “ongoing investigation.”

“Thank you for understanding. As we speak, this report contains all developments concerning the maritime incident,” it said on Wednesday afternoon.

Basilan answered by urging that the original posts be “retained” while updates are provided to the public.

“I think there won’t be any confusion,” she reasoned in the comments.

Basilan said it would let the public “see the progress of the investigation from when the first incident report was released.”

“We just want to make sure that we communicate the ‘latest developments’ as shared on this post,” PCG answered.

“Rest assured we will provide more details as soon as they are available. Thank you,” it added.

Minutes before PCG uploaded the incident report on Facebook, however, its spokesperson mentioned the name of the vessel in a phone interview with CNN Philippines.

PCG spokesperson Rear Admiral Armand Balilo said that while investigations are still ongoing, their initial findings reveal that a foreign crude oil tanker named “Pacific Anna” was in the area during the incident.

PCG later released a video from its maritime traffic data which showed that Pacific Anna, a Marshall Islands-flagged crude oil tanker, passed over the location of the Filipino vessel off Bajo de Masinloc.

Ships may be registered under countries that are different from the home country of the company that owns them.

In its statement, PCG said that the Philippine boat “failed to detect” the approaching foreign vessel because of poor weather,  resulting in a collision that caused the boat to capsize.

Maritime tracker MarineTraffic notes that Pacific Anna is en route to Singapore and is owned or operated by Atlantiss Ship Management, which is based in the city-state.

In a 4:29 p.m. post on the X (formerly Twitter) platform, maritime security expert Ray Powell said that Pacific Anna was “still moving toward the Singapore Strait.”

The PCG said it will reach out to the flag of the vessel and the next port the vessel will visit to be boarded by the Port State Control Officers.

“The PCG is committed to ensuring a thorough and impartial investigation into this tragic incident,” it said in its incident report on Facebook.

Meanwhile, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the government will provide assistance to the victims and their families.

“Let us allow the PCG to do its job and investigate, and let us refrain from engaging in speculation in the meantime,” he said.

In a statement, fisherfolk group PAMALAKAYA called on the Marcos administration to ensure an impartial investigation “regardless of who the perpetrator was.”

“It is unfortunate that Filipino fishers have to be vulnerable and unprotected in our own traditional waters,” PAMALAKAYA national chairperson Fernando Hicap said.

Tensions at the Bajo de Masinloc recently escalated after the Philippines removed a 300-meter floating barrier installed by the China Coast Guard near the southern entrance of Filipinos’ traditional fishing ground.