Editorial: Putting our foot down

WHILE we were celebrating the 121st Independence Day, a Filipino fishing boat sank after a collision with a Chinese fishing vessel in the West Philippine Sea, also known as the South China Sea.

Instead of helping the 22 Filipino crewmen, the Chinese crewmen fled the scene, abandoning them. It was the crew of a Vietnamese fishing boat who helped the crewmen.

“The act of abandonment, by those sailing the Chinese fishing vessel of 22 Filipino fishermen aboard their anchored and stationary watercraft hit by them, is uncivilized as it is outrageous,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement issued early Thursday morning.

“The Captain and the crew of the Chinese vessel should not have left the injured party without any assistance or succor. Such act of desertion is inhumane as it is barbaric,” he added.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the Philippine vessel was anchored near Recto (Reed) Bank, which is within the Philippines’s exclusive economic zone, when it was hit by the Chinese vessel in the evening of June 9.

Investigation to what really happened in this troubled sea has yet to be conducted though Lorenzana has already called an investigation on this.

We have yet to get confirmation if this is intentional or accidental. However, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. was quick to dismiss speculations that the Chinese vessel had “rammed” the Filipino boat.

It is disheartening to note that the Chinese vessel just abandoned the Filipinos in the sinking ship. They left them in the sea, which is a formidable and unpredictable force of nature. They could have died if not for the Vietnamese crew.

There will definitely be opinions on this and its relation to the sea dispute. A lot will be said by the critics and the government may have its canned answers ready.

It is quite clear that the administration has taken a very cautious and friendlier approach in matters of the West Philippine Sea. However, that approach may be taking slight turn.

The Philippines has lodged a diplomatic protest against China yesterday following the incident. Panelo also said the country may cut off diplomatic relations.

It is good to note that it has put its foot down on this matter. But will it be enough? Diplomatic protests in the past did not do much when it comes to the sea dispute. The Chinese built a base in one of the islands and there have been stories of Filipino fishermen being harassed.

Whatever happens, we hope that the government will be able to make the situation in the disputed seas much better. We hope that the government will be able to come up with a plan or strategy that will cement our rights in this disputed area. We hope that they will truly fight for our rights as a sovereign nation and the rights of the Filipino who make their livelihood in these areas.


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