THE investigation report of the Coast Guard and maritime agency on a Chinese vessel’s involvement in the Recto Bank incident on June 9, 2019 was first sent to Malacañang.
In that report sent to the Palace last June 20, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) said the Chinese vessel failed to take steps to prevent it from smashing into a Philippine fishing boat.
The report was leaked July 6 to Manila-based media organizations by persons who apparently wanted the public to know since Malacañang did not act on it for 15 days. The leaked report came out in Rappler, the Philippine Daily Inquirer and CNN Philippines over the weekend. They did not say where and how they got the investigation report.
The PCG and Marina were earlier tasked to investigate the ramming of the Philippine boat Gem-Ver 1 by a Chinese vessel. The investigation report said the Chinese vessel not only failed to prevent the collision but also failed to extend assistance to the 22 Filipino fishermen who were abandoned after they jumped ship.
The PCG-Marina investigation was not intended to determine liability, only to explore the safety recommendations or measures to be undertaken to prevent a similar incident.
A check of the websites of the PCG at http://coastguard.gov.ph and Marina at http://marina.gov.ph/ made no mention of the investigation report. The Marina website, however, posted Monday, July 8, a reminder to ensure maritime safety at all times, especially in this rainy season. The call was addressed to ship owners, operators, bareboat charterers, ship managers and other concerned stakeholders.
No mention of the joint investigation report. But the reminder appeared to be in line with one of the report’s recommendations which was to formulate a policy defining the area of operation and safety standards for fishing vessels and to keep reminding fishing vessels owners, operators and crew of the regulations at sea.
Was the leaked report from the PCG-Marina authentic? So far, there has been no denial. It was Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. who decided to disregard news reports on the joint investigation report.
He said on his Twitter account last July 7, “There is a leaked alleged Coast Guard Marina report. Until I compare it with my copy fresh from DOTr’s (Department of Transportation) hand four weeks ago, that is not official. We do not share leakages. China has its own independent report. I decide when we compare our versions.”
The purpose of leaking the report to media was to force the government’s hand into taking action. Persons behind the leak did not join the political fray because the report didn’t say the government should hold China accountable.
What they wanted, it seemed, was to keep the discussion on the incident going and not let it die with President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement that what happened was a “little maritime accident.”