Saturday, May 18, 2013

An International Incident


Beijing-based Xinhua News Agency reported on its website that a Taiwanese fisherman died Thursday morning after a Philippine Navy ship fired upon a fishing vessel in seas south of Taiwan.

Xinhua said the deputy head of Taiwan's fishery administration, Tsay Tzu-yaw, disclosed details of the incident.

Citing Taiwanese media reports, Xinhua said the Filipino ship dealt severe damage to the fishing boat while chasing it for an hour "after killing the fisherman" in waters 180 nautical miles southeast of the southern tip of Taiwan.  

Fiction, my account tells. But the narrative may not be far from the real story. Let it be a guide that this is purely speculation. Whatever the outcome of the investigation should be accepted more than this word-weaver's tale.

And so it is on a normal day. A lone Philippine coast guard ship patrols the waters off Mavudis island in Batanes. They spotted boats. Fishing vessels in full stop in the middle of nowhere. Ships, that have no business in these waters. 

The calligraphy on the boats' stern were a giveaway. They hail from up north, probably from a country that keeps harassing the fishermen far west of these islands. They have been spotted, fishing in these waters since time remembers. Often, the authorities pay no attention. They can't catch them anyway. But this coast guard vessel needs to perform its duty. It's tuna fishing season. 

Much is at stake.

Hails were sent to the vessels. There were no replies. The coast guard ship tries to approach one. To board, search and document what can be found as evidence. But instead of submitting to the boarding party, the unknown vessel turns around, and in full throttle tries to evade the Philippine vessel by ramming it. Shots were fired, but they don't matter. The crews need to flee into friendly waters. 

The boats scattered in two directions. 

Infuriated, the captain of the coast guard ship - the one who was supposed to apprehend, ordered pursuit. These transgressions have been going on for some time - and to be honest - the authorities are weary. The boats, with calligraphies for a name outrun their much larger pursuer. They are used to this mad dash as they operate in hostile waters. Pirates and coast guard patrols outclassed, these fishing boats' propellers are built for the chase. Small but not flimsy, they can outrun anyone, especially, when fishing quotas are yet to be met.   

What they didn't expect is that the pursuers will shoot this time. Maybe, the coast guard captain had a very rough day - or perhaps he had heard so many complaints from locals that the yellow-skinned, chinky-eyed ones take those that should have been theirs. It has to stop, really, or else, locals will lose faith in the men guarding these waters.

The hot pursuit goes on, and like robbers trying to escape the police, one has to give up the other in order to get away. Full engines at maximum, the faster boat leaves behind its pair; the one that couldn't catch up; the one that will be in the news around the world a week later:

Guangdaxing No. 28.

The apprehender sees a target. One that is slower, smaller, and easier to catch. Aiming for this boat, they started shooting to make it stop. It doesn't and has no plans to do so. Betrayed by their comrades, it is in their resolve to head back to their homeland to make others answer for leaving them behind.

For offering them as the sacrifice.

Projectiles flew in all directions. It punctured holes, on the port, on the stern and on the bow of the hapless boat. The engines keep running, as it didn't suffer a direct hit. Hails were sent to any friendly vessel for assistance. "Hostiles!" Said in language only they could understand. Ten minutes, fifteen, the coast guard ship closes the gap. Whoever is running the boat must make a quick decision or suffer the consequences of their violation. For what? for honor, for loved ones, for the betrayal of those who abandoned them? 

Such is the fate of small people trying to make a living. But nothing can be done. The floating fish factories already hold domain over much of the friendly coast. The government doesn't care. They make money out of these fleets.

As the boat's captain contemplates on giving up; of turning over to foreign authorities, a friendly voice responds. Hails come from the local frequency. At last! He hears words that soothe the most troubled of hearts. Help is on the way, the voice said.

They will be escorted back to the home port. 

The pursuers fall back as their radio also heard the command. No longer do they hold authority over these waters to contest the incident.  

With a sigh of relief (and a heart that keeps pounding), the captain accounts for his men. Those who have lived to return to the sea and those who have died in this unfortunate chase. Everyone seems unharmed, he thought, except for one - the person who made their flee possible. Dashing towards the badly hit engine room, the captain saw blood on the floor. At a corner was the old man gasping his breath: the true regent of the fishing boat.

There in his dying moments, he spoke his last words.

"My son."  


citybuoy said...

Not sure how much of this is fact or fiction but it's a lovely retelling. I'm not one to really react to the news. i feel like there are too many voices around screaming to be heard but this was delightfully different. :)

JM said...


That's a relief. :D Thank you.