The deal with government-issued fiberglass boats for Recto Bank fishermen

June 21, 2019 - 8:54 PM
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11 fiberglass boats given to the crew of F/B GEM-VER 1. (News5 via Facebook)

The government handed over fiberglass boats to the distressed fishing crew after their vessel was rammed and sank by a Chinese trawler in the West Philippine Sea.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources on June 19, Wednesday gave the crew 11 30-foot boats with engines, nets and other accessories.

Each boat is expected to be temporarily shared by two fishermen as GEM-VER 1 undergoes repairs.

The fishing boat, which carried 22 crewmembers, was anchored near the reef when a Chinese boat crashed into it on June 9.

Thank u, next

The new fiberglass boats, however, are significantly smaller in size and were deemed an “insult” by fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya).

“The boats given are an insult to the fishermen and cover-up to the uselessness of the government,” Pamalakaya national chairperson Fernando Hicap said.

The group added that the government appears to tell fishermen “not (to) fish at Recto Bank or in any part of the West Philippine Sea where China is.”

Fiberglass boats
11 fiberglass boats given by the Burea of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to the crew of F/B GEM-VER 1. (Philippine News Agency via Facebook)

Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol in a radio interview confirmed that the fiberglass boats would only be suited for fishing in “municipal waters.”

“These boats are not designed for WPS (West Philippine Sea). Pang municipal waters muna while waiting for the repair,” he said before.

Boats for municipal waters are smaller since they are only supposed to withstand conditions of streams, lakes, inland bodies of water and waters 15 kilometers from coastlines and offshore islands.

Meanwhile, the GEM-VER 1 fishing boat is built for the manner and location of fishing activities of the shipwrecked crew. It can significantly carry more catch and withstand rough waves, among others.

F/B GEM-VIR 1
F/B GEM-VIR 1 destroyed by a Chinese fishing vessel. (News5 via Facebook)

The size of the government-issued fiberglass boats did not escape the scrutiny of some Filipinos who thought it unsuitable for the crew’s day-to-day endeavors as people whose livelihood mainly depends on deep sea fishing.

A Twitter account that advocates for Filipino fishermen noted that the GEM-VER 1 crew are commercial fishers who do not use such boats.

Latest reports note that the fishermen have not been able to use the fiberglass boats as they claim its engine is not suitable for offshore fishing and has limited capabilities given its structure.

Boats for offshore fishing 

People who regularly endeavor on offshore fishing are supposed to use a “large, sturdy boat that can handle heavy waves and rough conditions” at the sea, according to an international boating company.

Vessels for offshore fishing are supposed to be 30 feet and above in size.

Boats should be sizeable since significant power is needed to handle “adverse sea conditions,” an international fishing boat manufacturer noted.

“The offshore fishing vessel is built to be more robust and likely equipped with the right horsepower to handle rough water,” it added.

Large boats offer more stability, strength and durability for survival in the open seas rather than small ones.

An all-purpose fishing boat is generally supposed to be equipped with a front bow, rod lockers, a trolling motor system, an outboard power and live wells, a maritime information website shared.