MANILA — Tired, hungry, shivering from cold and clinging on to plastic barrels and pieces of wood from their sunken boat.
This was how Vietnamese rescuers described the ordeal of the Filipino fishermen who were left abandoned at the West Philippine Sea near Recto Bank after their boat was reportedly hit by a Chinese vessel last week.
In an interview with Vietnam news site VNExpress, Ngo Van Theng, owner of the TGTG-90983-TS fishing, shared his conversation with the boat’s captain Nguyen Thanh Tam the night his crewmen rescued the 22 Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea.
Past midnight on June 10, the Vietnamese fishermen were awakened by the voices of two men on a small boat, asking for their help.
“At first, the Vietnamese captain feared they were pirates but they were soaked wet and shivering. He guessed they had an accident and were seeking help. Upon being towed to the Vietnamese boat, the two foreigners continued to gesture with their hands and point in the direction of Reed Bank,” the VNExpress reported.
The journey back to the 20 other Filipinos was about five nautical miles away, an hour-long boat ride from where the Vietnamese vessel was originally anchored.
“The Vietnamese crew found a group of 20 Filipino fishermen wearing life jackets clinging on to plastic barrels and pieces of wood. They were tired, hungry and cold. The 10 fishermen from Tien Giang took them in and fed them rice and instant noodles, and helped them get warm.
Aboard the Vietnamese boat, the Filipino crew borrowed their radio to inform a sister boat in the area about the ordeal they went through. Around 2 p.m. on June 11, the 22 survivors were picked up by another Filipino vessel.
Theng said that was the first time his family’s ship had rescued another vessel, more so, a foreign one.
“After working as a fisherman for many years, this is the first time that my family’s ship has rescued another vessel, especially a foreign ship. I believe that anyone who heads out to sea would have done the same thing, not just us,” he was quoted as saying by the VNExpress.
For saving the lives of the Filipino fishermen, the Philippine government thanked the Vietnamese crewmembers before the United Nations on June 17.
“The 22 Filipino crew were left in the water until a Vietnamese vessel took them on board. We are eternally in debt to our strategic partner, Vietnam, for this act of mercy and decency,” said Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. in his remarks during the 29th Meeting of States Parties to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Joyce Ann L. Rocamora / PNA – northboundasia.com