Editorial: No word

(Editorial Cartoon by Josua Cabrera)

MARITIME law expert Jay Batongbacal posted a screenshot of a satellite image on social media and captioned it “The Scene of the Crime.” He was referring to the site in Recto Bank (Reed Bank) where the Chinese ship Yuemaobinyu 42212 allegedly “rammed” Filipino fishing boat F/B Gimver 1, throwing off some 22 fishermen into the sea at night and left “at the mercy of the elements.”

The image was satellite data captured on Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suit (VIIRS) on the incident night of June 9.

Boat-shaped icons representing fishing vessels on Recto Bank that night show that they were widely distributed in the area, the two vessels closest to each other were at least three to five nautical miles apart, said Batongbacal, who was using a Google Earth tool that measures distances.

He said it could not have been possible that the Chinese vessel was “besieged by seven or eight (Filipino) fishing boats, as claimed by China in a statement. Besieged as a military term means “to surround with armed forces.” There was no swarm of fishing boats to even make the men onboard 42212 feel as though some blitz was coming their way.

F/B Gem-Ver’s skipper Junel Insigne recalls no other vessels were around, just them and the Chinese vessel. How can they even attack the Chinese vessel, he asked, when they were the ones with the sunk boat?

Following reports of the incident, it was Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana who spoke strongly at a time when the country was celebrating Independence Day on June 12, “condemning in the strongest terms” the Recto Bank incident.

Insigne, in one of the media interviews, said the men onboard 42212 had to see to it that F/B Gem-Ver had sunk before leaving. It was an act, as Lorenzana said, that was “not expected action from a responsible and friendly people.”

Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, said China’s reaction to the incident was “very revealing,” and what it reveals is the amount of respect China has in its relationship with the Philippines.

“This is an insult to the intelligence of every Filipino,” he said.

Skipper Insigne, on the other hand, was supposed to meet President Rodrigo Duterte and his cabinet Monday, June 17, but the news said he aborted the trip to Malacañang and went back home. Another report put it differently, that it was the President who called off the meeting.

While at this, suddenly, we get word from Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo that the President was being circumspect, he wanted his reaction to be “calculated.”

Too much aggression in the high seas down west, and when was the last time we heard this supposed patriot in Malacañang swearing to hop into a jetski and pierce the Spratley’s navel with the Philippine flag?


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