SENATE Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Sunday, June 16, 2019, said the Philippines should exert international pressure on China by bringing up before the United Nations (UN) the Recto (Reed) Bank incident that heavily damaged a Filipino fishing boat and left 22 Filipino fishermen in distress at sea.
He said China should be held accountable for the incident. At the least, he said the Philippines should demand an apology from China.
"Ito'y hindi lang isang banggaan. Sa akin, ito'y nagpapakita ng mindset ng China na apihin ang Pilipinas dahil sa ating claims sa West Philippine Sea (WPS). Sinasabi nila na amin ito, hindi kayo pwedeng mangisda dahil teritoryo naming ito. It should be taken in that context. Hindi lang isolated incident, sa akin ito'y nagiging pattern ng pang-aapi at pambu-bully nitong China," he said in an interview over the radio.
(This is not a mere collision. For me, this shows the mindset of China to oppress the Philippines. They are telling us that the area is theirs and the Filipinos could not go fishing there because it is their territory. It should be taken in that context. This is not an isolated incident. For me, bullying by China is becoming a pattern.)
According to Drilon, the Law of the Sea or the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the international law on Safety of Life at Sea (Solas) provide that each government has the responsibility of requiring registered vessels to rescue whoever is in danger of being lost at sea.
The Philippine Navy reported that a Chinese vessel hit and damaged a Filipino fishing boat anchored near Recto Bank in the evening of June 9, 2019 and immediately fled the scene. The 22 Filipino fishermen were later rescued by a Vietnamese fishing boat.
China, on the other hand, confirmed that a Chinese light purse seine boat was involved and that it was allegedly "besieged by 7 or 8 Filipino boats." The Chinese hit the Filipino boat while it was allegedly trying to "evacuate."
The Chinese crew did not stop to help the Filipino fishermen in distress because they were allegedly afraid of the crew of the other Filipino boats in the area. The Filipino fishermen have insisted there were no other boats in the area.
Drilon said that among lawyers, flight is evidence of guilt.
"Kapag ikaw ay tumakbo, iyan ang evidence na ikaw ang may sala. Ngayon kung sinasabi nila na kukuyugin sila ng seven o eight fishing boats na nandoon, kung totoo na nandoon yung mga bangka ng Pinoy, bakit mahigit isang oras bago sila ma-rescue ng Vietnamese vessel?" the lawmaker argued.
(If you flee, that is evidence that you are at fault. Now if it's true that there were 7 or 8 fishing boats in the area, how come it took more than an hour before the Filipino fishermen were rescued by a Vietnamese vessel?)
The Philippines, through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), has lodged a diplomatic protest with China over the incident. (From Ryniel Berlanga/SunStar Philippines)