China Oceanic Development Foundation – Rescue in Typhoon: Two Filipino fishermen saved by China Coast Guard

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BEIJING, July 13, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea is a typhoon-prone and also accident-prone area when storms come with strong winds and surging waves, which makes humanitarian assistance at sea crucial to fishermen and their vessels.

Two Filipino fishermen were rescued by China Coast Guard ships in the middle of a strong typhoon on November 28, 2016, near Scarborough Shoal. The two fishermen were taken good care of and handed back to the Philippines on December 2 when the weather condition allowed.

“Xiehu,” the 25th typhoon of the year, attacked the area of Scarborough Shoal in late November, causing huge waves on the sea. Chinese vessel “Qiongqionghaiyu 09289” rescued two Filipino fishermen from a capsized boat when they were taking shelter in the harbor of Scarborough Shoal.

China Coast Guard (CCG) quickly dispatched CCG 3501 and 3412 to the area where the incident occurred and tried to transfer the two fishermen to the 3501 vessel, so they could have better medical care and living condition. China Coast Guard had been in close contact with the Philippine Coast Guard during the whole process.

Under the influence of typhoon, the sea conditions were very unfriendly for navigation. When all the vessels took shelter in the harbor, the two Chinese vessels set off towards Scarborough Shoal against winds and waves.

“The ship swayed so badly that it was in danger of capsizing at any time. Only by changing course and slowing down from time to time could we move forward,” said Wu Zhiqiang, Captain of CCG 3501.

Under normal conditions, it usually takes several hours for the Chinese ships to sail from their berth to Scarborough Shoal. However, due to the extreme weather, the ships sailed at 1 pm on November 29th and arrived at noon the next day.

When the two fishermen were first discovered in the water, one of them was in a bad state of exhaustion. After being transferred to CCG 3501, they had a careful physical examination and a good rest. Provided with medical care, clothes, toiletries and a comfortable room to sleep in, they resumed good health condition, both physically and mentally.

Language was a big problem when the Chinese coast guards tried to communicate with the Filipino fishermen. Because the fishermen spoke the native language of Filipino, Chinese police who were only fluent in English did not understand what they said. Under such circumstance, they relied on body language and written English.

It took a lot of efforts of the China Coast Guards to finally confirm the identity of the two fishermen and the basic information of the incident, including the fishermen’s names, addresses, the vessel number and what had happened to the vessel in the storm.

“Thank you and ‘Xiexie’,” the Filipino fishermen expressed gratitude to the Chinese coast guards for their assistance in simple English and Chinese.

It was as difficult handing over the two fishermen to the Philippines as, if not more than, rescuing them from the sea. Because of the bad weather, the Philippine coastguard vessel 4401 had to navigate through choppy waters to collect the two fishermen from the Chinese ship.

Several attempts were made by the Filipino vessel to link up with the Chinese vessel, which took some time as the waters in the area were very rough.

Waves as high as three to four meters and the poor visibility on the sea made it impossible to finish the handover until the afternoon of December 2. In the east of Scarborough Shoal, two Philippine coast guards boarded CCG 3501 and the two fishermen were turned over to them.

“Rescue at sea is the responsibility and obligation of every ship,” said Wu Zhiqiang, the Chinese Captain, “Humanitarian assistance is a global obligation, regardless of nationality.”

“We thank the Chinese Coast Guard for the assistance. This act demonstrates that the Philippine-China relationship is now back on friendly footing after the recent successful visit of President Duterte in China,” said Martin Andanar, Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary. “We expect the ties between the two countries to further improve in the years ahead.”

The Philippines and China have maintained cooperation in humanitarian assistance. China Coast Guard Academy had organized two training courses for the Philippine Coast Guard in 2017 and 2018. Each year, around 20 Philippine coast guards attended the courses and they spoke highly of the friendly exchanges in promoting maritime security and maritime law enforcement.

“The most important thing is to establish mutual trust with the Philippines, to find common ground through communication,” said Zhang Tianhui, an official at the training base of China Coast Guard Academy at that time. “We are very sincere in terms of communication. This is conducive to establishing a relationship of mutual trust between the two countries.”

The Philippine Coast Guard and the China Coast Guard have also conducted joint maritime drills on search and rescue, as well as fire-fighting drills at sea in the waters of Manila, the capital of the Philippines, on January 15, 2020, which was the first time the CCG ship visited the Philippines.

The past June of 2021 witnessed the 46th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relationship between the Philippines and China, as well as the 20th Friendship Day. Over the years, the two countries have made efforts to strengthen understanding, mutual trust, and cooperation, in a bid to promote maritime security and maritime law enforcement, and have emphasized maritime search and rescue as key areas of cooperation between the two countries.

SOURCE China Oceanic Development Foundation

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