‘No contradiction in PCG report, Duterte remark’
MANILA, Philippines — There is no contradiction between President Duterte’s description of the June 9 Recto Bank mishap as a “little maritime accident” and the findings of investigators from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina), presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said yesterday.
“Little maritime accident. There is no contradiction,” Panelo said.
The PCG-Marina report said the loss of the Filipino fishing vessel was a “very serious marine casualty.”
The F/B GemVir 1 capsized after being rammed by a Chinese vessel near Recto Bank at midnight of June 9. The Chinese hurriedly left without rescuing the 22 Filipino crew of the fishing boat.
“Insofar as that incident is concerned, given the fact the Filipinos were placed in a dangerous situation where they could have been dead, then that’s a serious… What did it say? Marine casualty. That’s serious enough,” Panelo said.
He explained that Duterte does not want the issue to be blown out of proportion in the international arena.
“But when the President says it’s not that serious enough to blow it into international crisis, that is what he meant. So, both of them are correct,” Panelo said.
“It is serious in the sense that when you leave our countrymen there after that accident, then that’s a serious matter, we will not allow that,” he added.
The PCG-Marina report was based on the Code of the International Standards and Recommended Practices for Safety Investigation into a Marine Casualty or Marine Incident.
Philippine and Chinese investigators have finalized and reviewed the results of their respective probes.
Panelo said the two parties should discuss possible conflicts in their respective investigations. He said there are three issues that should be resolved: the nature of the incident; accountability of the Chinese vessel and compensation.
“If they are different, eh di pag-usapan natin kung (we’ll discuss) how we can resolve the difference,” he said.
Panelo said the Philippine government would make sure the 22 Filipino fishermen would be compensated once it is established that they were abandoned by the Chinese after their boat sank.
He expressed belief the Chinese were not threatened with harm by Filipino fishermen, contrary to what was reported in the Chinese media.
He said it would be up to Beijing to punish its own citizens involved in the mishap. He stressed, however, that the Philippines may push for the filing of criminal charges against the Chinese involved if their government fails to hold them accountable or if the Filipinos are not sufficiently compensated.
Sue Chinese boat owners
For Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, the government must file a case against the operators of the Chinese vessel involved in the Recto Bank incident.
If the government will not file a case, the Filipino fishermen may do so using the still unreleased joint report of the PCG and Marina.
“Why is (filing a case) important? It is important because non-action on the PCG-Marina report can be interpreted as acquiescence. We may not be able to completely enforce our laws because of limitations such as we don’t know who the crew are, but the fact that we are acting on the incident will be an argument that will favor us in the future when we continuously defend our position that Recto Bank is part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone,” Drilon said.
He said the complaint can make use of “John Does” as China has yet to provide the names of the Chinese crew.
The charges will be for violation of Republic Act 10654 or the Fisheries Code, which states that upon a summary finding of administrative liability, any foreign person, corporation or entity in violation of this code shall be punished by an administrative fine of $600,000 to $1 million, or its equivalent in pesos, he said.
Meanwhile, the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) chided Malacañang for holding off the filing of cases against the Chinese despite significant findings by PCG and Marina investigators.
“It is therefore suspicious and strange that Malacañang wants to wait for the results of China’s investigation before filing any case,” Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes said.
“Our exercise of sovereignty and jurisdiction should not be dependent on what China has to say about the incident. What if their findings are in stark contrast to ours? Will we tailor our complaint so as not to contradict China’s findings?”
Reyes added the Filipino fishermen deserve justice and the Philippine government should ensure that they get it.
“It is appalling how the Duterte government seems to be more concerned with not offending China rather than achieving justice for the Filipino fisherfolk. We join all patriotic Filipinos in commemorating the July 12 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. The ruling invalidated the nine-dash line claim of China and affirmed our exclusive economic zone under the UNCLOS.”
The group said this legal victory should not be set aside. “That is a total misappreciation of the significance of the ruling and is a betrayal of national interest,” he said. – With Rhodina Villanueva, Paolo Romero
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