Gem-Ver crew announces compensation for ramming boat
The Occidental Mindoro-based crew of the Gem-Ver I fishing vessel are finally hoping to receive compensation as they mark two years since their vessel was struck by a Chinese trawler in the West Philippine Sea.
Arlinda dela Torre, owner of the since repaired boat, and the crew, including her son Felix, are seeking 12 million pesos for the sinking of the Gem-Ver I by the Chinese trawler Yuemaobinyu 42212 on June 9 of the same year. They asked for help from the Philippine government to claim compensation.
The fishing boat was anchored at Recto Bank, 269 kilometers west of Palawan province, shortly before midnight, when it was struck by the Chinese trawler, which then abandoned the crew of the Gem- Ver I in the open sea. They were rescued about two hours later by a passing Vietnamese fishing boat.
On August 28, 2019, about two months after the sinking, the Guangdong Fishery Fishery Mutual Insurance Association apologized on behalf of the owner of Yuemaobinyu 42212, whom the group did not name, for what it called ” accident “and asked the Philippines to file a compensation claim.
In September last year, the Justice Department set 12 million pesos as compensation, covering repair costs, loss of income during the six months it took to repair the Gem- Ver I and civil and moral damages.
Two of the crew members said in a telephone interview with the Inquirer on Monday that they had been contacted by a lawyer, through the owner of the boat, and were forced to sign documents. indicating the amount they would receive.
Jimmy Gordiones, the boat’s mechanic, said he was told he would receive P 280,000 as compensation.
Another crew member, Vernel Agustin, said he would be awarded 264,000 P.
Agustin also said he was told the rest of the crew would receive roughly the same amount.
The two men said they would meet again with the same lawyer, whom they did not name, on June 20.
The signing of the documents took place as around fifteen other crew members gathered in the town of San José, west of Mindoro, to each receive P 15,000 in financial aid from the Ministry of Social protection and development of the province.
Reached by phone on Monday, Dela Torre said she cried in relief when she learned that compensation was being processed.
Her daughter-in-law, Fhaye dela Torre, said: “The money will be of great help to us, especially with the pandemic.”
“We just want everyone to get by,” she added.
According to Fhaye dela Torre, seven of Gem-Ver I’s 22 crew members have moved on to other livelihoods.
She said they feared being harassed by the Chinese or, worse, being killed.
“Some fishermen were traumatized and haven’t been the same since,” she said.
One of them is the son of Gordiones, JP, the youngest member of the crew, whose wife gave birth to their eldest daughter.
Gordiones, who made a decent living by going on multi-week fishing trips with Gem-Ver I, now supports his family through “pangangawil” or small-scale fishing near municipal waters, which offers less.
Others have become construction workers, according to Dela Torre. But the others remained in the crew.
Romel Calingasan, municipal agricultural officer in San José, said it was “not because they were not afraid … But the need to provide for their families is stronger”.
More Chinese ships
The Gem-Ver I is back at sea. The crew completed an expedition off the Spratlys two weeks ago and found an increasing number of Chinese ships stationed in the area.
The Foreign Ministry itself has noted the presence of these ships since March and has filed a series of protests against China.
The crew said they just stepped away from those trawlers to avoid trouble, even if that meant longer nights at sea and deeper waters to venture into to bring home enough catch.
Calingasan said: “Before, it takes them two weeks before they can fill their boat with fish, and they stay near the border of Mindoro and Palawan. But now they said there was nothing left. They have to go deeper into the West Philippine Sea and it takes them 20 days or more to fill their boat.
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