MANILA and Beijing will start talks next month for the compensation of Filipino fishermen who were on board a boat that was rammed, sunk, and abandoned by a Chinese fishing vessel in June 2019 at the West Philippine Sea, according to Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra.

Mr. Guevarra told reporters on Monday that the matter was taken up by the governments of the Philippines and China during their “sixth consultative meeting” last Friday.

The Philippine panel on the compensation talks will be composed of officers of the Department of Justice (DoJ), Department of Foreign Affairs, and Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

The Justice chief said they created the group “to put a close to this festering issue.”

“As far as the Filipino fishermen are concerned, it is important that they recover fully their expenses for the boat repair and the income they lost while the boat was under repair,” he said.

The DoJ’s assessment of damages due to the owners and crew of the fishing vessel F/B Gem-Ver amount to P12 million for repairs, loss of income, wages for six months, and moral damages. 

The Philippine government committed last year to help the Gem-Ver owners and crew, including 22 fishermen, claim compensation.   

The Chinese Yuemaobinyu 42212 vessel’s owner has so far only apologized for the incident. 

A Vietnamese vessel passing near the Recto Bank where the sea mishap took place rescued the Filipino fishermen.

Gem-Ver owners Felix and Fe Dela Torre reported spending about P2.1 million in Nov. 2019 to repair the boat.

Mr. Guevarra said the Philippine panel will meet with their Chinese counterparts on June 2 and 7 to discuss the compensation. — Bianca Angelica D. Añago