Leni, senators call for probe on Recto Bank incident
(The Philippine Star) – June 14, 2019 – 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Leni Robredo has expressed support for calls to investigate and seek accountability over the sinking of a Filipino fishing boat hit by a Chinese vessel in Recto Bank in Palawan on Sunday.
“I fully support the call of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Department of National Defense for this incident to be investigated and those responsible held to account,” she said in Filipino in a post on Twitter on Wednesday night.
“On our Day of Independence, let us show courage and dignity, especially if the welfare and freedom of our people are on the line,” she added.
Earlier on Wednesday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana condemned the incident upon learning that the Chinese vessel fled, leaving the 22 Filipino fishermen “at the mercy of the elements” as their boat sank. Vietnamese fishermen arrived and rescued the Filipinos.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon urged the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to file a diplomatic protest against China.
Drilon said the Philippine government and the Filipino people “should call out China for not honoring its obligations to rescue any person in distress at sea or in danger of being lost at sea” in accordance with international laws and treaties.?
“I urge the DFA to file a diplomatic protest immediately. This incident demands strong and immediate action. We cannot let this incident pass. No self-respecting nation will allow that,” he said.?
Drilon, a former justice secretary, explained that under Article 98 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), every state is required to render assistance to any person in distress or in danger of being lost at sea.?
Under the UNCLOS, Drilon said that it is the duty of the state to oblige masters of vessels flying their flag to follow the provision; therefore, both state-owned vessels and private vessels flying the state’s flag are mandated to render assistance to people in distress at sea.?
He stressed that the duty to rescue individuals applies without distinction and with no regard to the nationality and status of the person/s in need of rescue at sea.?“The Chinese vessel’s action is deplorable and can no way be justified,” he said.
“What do you call a friend who abandons a friend in times of need?”?
Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III also condemned the abandonment of Filipino crewmen, saying the rescue of all persons in distress at sea is a matter of humanitarian duty.
“We thank the crew of the Vietnamese vessel that assisted our fellow Filipinos to safety. They must be commended for responding to the call of duty,” Pimentel said.
For her part, Sen. Risa Hontiveros said the incident was “treacherous and intended to harm if proven that the reported collision was intentional.”
She called on President Duterte to immediately order the recall of the Philippine ambassador and consuls in China.
“It stands to reason that if President Duterte can order the recall of our envoy and consuls in Canada over a dispute on garbage, he can do the same to defend and secure the lives of our fisherfolk and the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” she said.
Sen. Richard Gordon cited laws that mandate vessels, especially after a collision, to render assistance to the other ship, its crew and its passengers and, where possible, to inform the other ship of the name of his own ship, its port of registry and the nearest port at which it will call.
Meanwhile, Rep. Gary Alejano of Magdalo said the incident demands an investigation and diplomatic action to avoid a similar occurrence in the future.
“The safety of our own people and protection of our seas should be the utmost considerations as we resolve this matter,” he said. – With Jess Diaz, Cecille Suerte Felipe
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