Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. delivers his remarks at the 29th Meeting of States Parties to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea at the UN headquarters in New York.
Philippines calls on UN members to assist persons distressed at sea
Patricia Lourdes Viray ( - June 18, 2019 - 1:06pm

MANILA, Philippines — Following the sinking of a Filipino boat by a Chinese vessel, the Philippines' top diplomat called on the international community to render assistance to persons in distress at sea.

Speaking before the meeting of state parties to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in New York, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. stressed that every UN member state should observe conventions, particularly in life-and-death situations.

"The rescue of persons in distress is a universally recognized obligation of people and governments; and in civil law and, maybe in common law, it is a felony to abandon people in distress, especially when we cause that distress; and more so when it is no bother at all to save them at no riskto oneself," Locsin said in his speech.

Article 98 of the UNCLOS states that the master of a ship flying a flag has the duty to:

  • render assistance to any person found at sea in danger of being lost
  • proceed with all possible speed to the rescue of persons in distress, if informed of their need of assistance, in so far as such action may reasonably be expected of him
  • after a collision, to render assistance to the other ship, its crew and its passengers, and where possible, to inform the other ship of the name of his own ship, its port of registry and the nearest port at which it will call

Locsin noted that these are also indicated in the International Maritime Organization Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea and the Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue.

The DFA chief added that there is no sanction under international law for those not enforcing their duty to render assistance, this should be a cause of concern.

In his speech, Locsin highlighted the June 9 incident, where an anchored Filipino fishing vessel sank after being hit by a Chinese trawler in the West Philippine Sea.

He also stressed that the collision occurred within Philippine exclusive economic zone.

"The incident, to put it diplomatically, highlights the moral and possibly legal —though one wouldn’t wager on it — imperative of coming to the rescue of persons in distress at sea," Locsin said.

The Philippines was one of the original signatories of the UNCLOS in 1982, the basis of its arbitration at the Hague-based tribunal.

In July 2016, the UNCLOS-backed tribunal ruled in favor of Manila, invalidating Beijing's nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea.

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