MANILA – Department of Agriculture secretary Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol denied that the 22 Filipino fishermen were persuaded to change their story in relation to the Reed Bank incident.
Piñol on Thursday called the allegations “unfair” as he dared critics to talk to the Filipino fishermen personally to determine if they were coerced to change their narrative.
“Hindi naman ako makapangyarihan. Kung totoong sa paniwala nila talagang ‘yun ang kanilang paninindigan, I don’t think I will be able to persuade them,” Piñol said.
“What I did was just to come up with consensus among themselves,” he added. “Ganito po ang aking challenge. Kausapin nila ‘yung mga mangingisda. Ngayon wala ng makapagsasabi na ini-intimidate sila o minamaneobra ‘yung kanilang statement.”
Piñol said the 22 fishermen will receive P25,000 each under the Survival Response Loan Program to “help them recover from their losses after the unfortunate incident.”
They will also get new fiber glass boats with accessories from the Department of Agriculture – Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, and additional funding from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation.
Junel Insigne, captain of F/B Gem-Vir 1 allegedly bumped by the Chinese vessel, has changed his tune on Wednesday after initially insisting that the Chinese vessel intentionally bumped them.
“Medyo naguguluhan po ako eh… Parang binangga, parang hindi rin po,” Insigne said in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro. “Hindi ko na po sigurado ‘yung pangyayari.”/PN