Opinion

Why We Shouldn't Turn a Blind Eye When Human Decency is at Stake

A Chinese vessel rammed into a Filipino fishing boat, and then abandoned its 22 fishermen in their sinking boat at sea.
ILLUSTRATOR Roland Mae Tanglao
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We’ve been following the news of the incident in the West Philippine Sea off Recto Bank. This is what’s been reported in the news: A Chinese vessel rammed into a Filipino fishing boat, and then abandoned its 22 fishermen in their sinking boat at sea.

We have seen the photos of the men, snapshots of 22 living, breathing human beings. Whether it was an accident, or whether it was done on purpose, it is mind boggling how the passengers on the Chinese vessel could just leave their fellowmen clinging to flotsam and jetsam kilometers away from land. 

Where is the compassion? What has happened to basic decency and kindness for a fellow human being? How can some of our own fellow Filipinos, the armchair internet warriors and trolls, now question the integrity of those fishermen and give them the brush off as political pawns?

These questions have nothing to do with politics. We expressed the same outrage when 44 of our Filipino Special Action Force commandos were left to die in the Mamasapano clash in 2015, and our then leaders claimed miscommunication and ignorance. Where was the humanity?

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According to Rappler news reports on last week’s situation, the fishermen fortunately saw the lights of another boat in the distance, and two of them managed to use a waterlogged boat to reach the larger vessel, a Vietnamese boat. At first the Vietnamese crew was hesitant, fearing the men were pirates, but then thought otherwise, pulled the wet, shivering men on board, and fed them warm noodles and biscuits.

The Vietnamese news website VnExpress reports the Vietnamese boat then traveled about an hour to rescue the other 20 Filipino fishermen from the sea. “I believe that anyone who heads out to sea would’ve done the same thing, not just us,” the boat’s captain Nguyen Thanh Tam, said in the news report. Meanwhile, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported the largest organization of Filipino-Chinese businesses will fund the repair of the Filipino fishing boat so the fishermen can “resume their livelihood.” 

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We are grateful for the kindness of the Vietnamese crew members in helping save the lives of our fellow Filipinos. We are thankful for the generosity of the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry who stepped up to the plate to help the fishermen get back out to sea as soon as possible. They need to make up for the five tons of fish and livelihood they lost so they can feed their families. In this increasingly ugly upside down world, may we continue to celebrate what is good and what is right, especially when others will not.

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Yvette Fernandez
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