Cabinet meeting on sinking of Filipino fishing boat set, then called off
Fishermen pull the damaged F/B Gemver to shore in Barangay San Roque, San Jose, Occidental Mindoro yesterday.
The STAR/Walter Bollozos

Cabinet meeting on sinking of Filipino fishing boat set, then called off

( - June 16, 2019 - 1:49pm

MANILA, Philippines— President Rodrigo Duterte set a special Cabinet meeting to discuss the sinking of a Filipino fishing boat near the Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea and a Chinese vessel's failure to render assistance after the collision that caused it.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea later said the meeting was cancelled. He did not disclose the reason for the cancellation.

The meeting was to be held on Monday afternoon after the celebration of the Philippine Navy's 121st anniversary. The Navy's BRP Ramon Alcaraz was among the ships that were sent to assist the crew of F/B Gem-Vir 1 after the incident on June 9.

The announcement came amid criticism of the president's silence over the incident, which the Palace has attributed to caution. The Philippines has been pursuing warmer relations with China and has preferred bilateral talks to asserting a 2016 ruling by an international tribunal that said China's sweeping claim over much of the South China Sea has no basis.

Earlier Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon urged the government to “continue exerting international pressure” on China following the Recto Bank incident.

Drilon said China should be held responsible for what happened.

'Chinese vessel had obligation to help Gem-Vir 1 crew'

The senator cited that the Chinese fishing vessel violated international law by allegedly abandoning the Filipino fishers at sea after the fishing boat hit Gem-Vir 1.

“Iyan po ay labag sa kanilang tungkulin sa international law, lalo na sa international convention on the safety of life at sea (SOLA) at sa UNCLOS,” Drilon said in an interview with dzBB.

(This is a violation of the mandate in international law, especially in the international convention on the safety of life at sea and on UNCLOS [United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea].)

Drilon also cited that the UNCLOS stated that each government has the responsibility to require its registered vessels to rescue whoever is in danger of being lost at the sea. He said any distress at sea shall be addressed by any government who witnessed it.

For this, Drilon said the ramming incident case shall be raised before an international forum, adding that the incident is part of China’s bullying efforts against the Philippines.

This was despite Chinese Embassy in Manila’s denial that the Chinese left 22 Filipino fishermen at sea.

“Dalhin natin ito sa UN assembly, ihayag natin (Let’s bring this to the UN assembly),” Drilon said.

“Ito’ 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. Sinasabi nila na amin ito, hindi kayo pwedeng mangisda dahil teritoryo naming ito. It should be taken in that context. Hindi lang isolated incidence, sa akin ito’y nagiging pattern ng pang-aapi at pambu-bully nitong China,” he added.

(This is not a simple collision. This shows China’s mindset to ridicule Philippines because of its West Philippine Sea claims. They are saying this is ours, you cannot fish here because it’s our terriroty. It should be taken in that context. It’s not an isolated incidence, for me, it’s a pattern of abuse and bullying of China)

Drilon added that the incident proved that the bilateral foreign policy of the Duterte administration is not effective. He is pushing for a multilateral approach on China.

“ Babalewalain tayo ng China. Malakas ang kanilang ekonomiya. Malakas ang kanilang sandatahang lakas. Kaya yung ating sinusulong ay multi-lateral ang usapan dito,” Drilon said.

(China will take us for granted. They have a strong economy. They have strong armed forces. That’s why he have to push for multi-lateral talks on this)

 “Hindi lang naman Pilipinas ang nagke-claim dito. Maraming involved dito. Para sa  stability and peace ng WPS, dapat maraming bansa ang nag-uusap. Hindi ubra ng China at Pilipinas ang nag-uusap; dapat lahat ng involved sa disputes ay maupo at pag-usapan ito,” he added.

(It’s not just the Philippines that claims this. Several are involved here. For the stability and peace in the WPS, more countries should join the discussion. Talk between China and the Philippines will not work. All those involved in the dispute should sit down and talk about it)

Sea ruling

On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague in a landmark ruling declared that Ayungin Shoal and Panganiban Reef were indisputably within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and that Panatag Shoal is a common fishing ground.

The international tribunal also invalidated Beijing’s nine-dash-line claim covering almost the entire South China Sea and reaffirmed the Philippines’ own maritime entitlements.

China has refused to comply with the ruling, calling it a mere piece of paper and has since maintained ties with President Rodrigo Duterte's government. 

The Malacañan and opposition lawmakers has condemned the incident and the Department of Foreign Affairs has filed a diplomatic protest  but Duterte has remained mum on the issue.

The Palace defended the president's silence and said Duterte's just "being cautious."

Senen Mangalile, deputy permanent representative to the International Maritime Organization, reported the incident at the 101st session of the IMO maritime safety committee in London on Friday.Rosette Adel

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