Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. stressed the Philippines and China should conduct separate investigations over the incident.
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DFA chief rejects joint probe offer of China
Helen Flores (The Philippine Star) - June 22, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. yesterday rejected the proposal for China and the Philippines to conduct a joint investigation on the sinking of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese vessel in the disputed South China Sea.

Locsin stressed the Philippines and China should conduct separate investigations over the incident.

“There will be no joint investigation. China and Philippines will conduct their respective investigations,” Locsin said on Twitter.

Chinese and Philippine officials, including Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra and presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo, supported the proposed joint inquiry on the June 9 sinking of a Filipino fishing boat after it was hit by a Chinese vessel in Recto Bank.

Locsin said he has expressed his position to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, and stressed that Malacañang supports his view.

He added a decision on the proposed joint probe will be up to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of National Defense (DND) and the National Security Adviser (NSA).

“I’ve stated my view of this proposal; DFA will act on MY VIEW & no one else’s. I talked to ES Medialdea; Palace supports me. That’s that. Also, I listen only to the DND and NSA. This is a matter beyond civilian agencies’ remit and falls well within the DFA’s, DND’s & NSA’s. Period,” Locsin said.

On the plan to allow a joint investigation, President Duterte will be meeting with Locsin on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in Bangkok to patch up the conflicting recommendations, an official said.

“I think the operative word could be a ‘parallel,’ not joint investigation,” a Cabinet official told The STAR yesterday.

“We want to get the directive of the President,” the official said, adding Duterte will address issues raised by Locsin.

Duterte will talk to Locsin and some officials with conflicting views, the source said.    

Speaking at the 25th anniversary of the coming into force of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) early this week, Locsin said the “duty to render assistance” is enshrined in international law and in the International Maritime Organization (IMO)’s International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea and the IMO Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue.

“The 22 Filipino crew were left in the water until a Vietnamese vessel took them on board. We are eternally grateful, we are eternally in debt to our strategic partner, Vietnam, for this act of mercy and decency,” Locsin said in a speech delivered at the UN last Monday.

Locsin pointed out the obligation of every member-state of the UN and of the IMO to pay not just lip service to these conventions but to “observe them in real life-and-death situations.”

Spokesman Panelo earlier said he is open to a joint investigation by Manila and Beijing.

Panelo said the Philippines and China must seek the truth about the Recto Bank incident and “proceed to put to rest the conflict, consistent with the principles of justice and the law of the seas.”

“In the meanwhile, pending the finality of the results of the investigation, whether done independently or jointly, our focus is to help our Filipino fishermen in their present predicament.

All aid to put them back in harness and to restore them from their displacement are being given them,” Panelo said. 

“We appeal to the major players and kibitzers of the Reed Bank incident, to hold their horses and let emotions settle down, as we pursue to find a satisfactory and principled end to the issue,” he added.?For his part, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the Philippine and Chinese governments can still conduct their own separate probes but “in the eyes of the international community, it would be good there will be a bilateral investigation.”

Sotto also stressed there must be reparations for the Filipino fishermen whether the collision was intentional or accidental.

Secretary Guevarra broached the idea of a joint investigation during the economic and cluster meetings at Malacañang last Tuesday.

Guevarra also said he respects the opinion expressed by Locsin.

“Let’s leave it to the President. No further comment. I respect (Locsin)’s opinion,” he said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang had said Beijing was pushing for such arrangement “through friendly consultations based on mutually recognized investigation results.”

‘Fact twister’

Human rights lawyer Chel Diokno said the government had failed to do justice for the Filipino fishermen.

“Instead of protecting Junel (Insigne) and his men, who nearly lost their lives, our government has twisted the facts to favor the Chinese vessels that have unlawfully been trespassing into what is undisputedly our territory,” he said.

Diokno said there is no legal framework to protect the fishermen in the area. 

“The problem is not the law – it’s with those who’re supposed to implement it. As Chief Executive, the buck stops with you, President Duterte,” he said.

Vice President Leni Robredo held a dialogue with Gem-Vir 1 skipper Insigne and crew in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro yesterday.

Robredo handed over P50,000 to each of the affected fishermen. The money was sourced from the Office of the Vice President’s anti-poverty program Angat Buhay.

Robredo asked them about the incident in Recto Bank as well as their present condition, including their livelihood, after the sinking of their fishing boat.

Robredo earlier called on the Philippine government to hold accountable the Chinese fishermen.

She said the DFA should demand from the Chinese government to find those responsible and recognize Philippine jurisdiction to face trial in our courts.

Twenty-two Filipino crewmembers of Gem-Vir 1 were left floundering in the sea off Recto Bank, also known as Reed Bank, off Palawan after their fishing boat was hit by a Chinese vessel.

The Filipino fishermen were later rescued by Vietnamese fishermen.

They claimed the Chinese vessel intentionally hit their boat and abandoned them when their boat began to sink.

But after a meeting with government officials on Wednesday, the fishermen retracted their earlier statement, saying it could have been an accident.

Duterte and the Chinese Foreign Ministry had also described the Recto Bank collision as an accident.

Manila has filed a diplomatic protest against Beijing as officials and critics alike blasted how the Chinese boat left the fishermen in the open sea.

However, China has denied the claims, saying the trawler merely “bumped” into the Filipino fishing boat and tried to rescue the fishermen but was “afraid of being besieged by other Filipino fishing boats.”

After being mum for days, Duterte emerged to dismiss the incident as a “little maritime accident” and stressed the need for an investigation and allow China to explain its side.

In his comments on Monday, Duterte said he would await the results of an investigation.

‘Misguided’

Malacañang yesterday said critics are making it appear that the Duterte administration is subservient to China.

“The Reed Bank incident is being dressed with misplaced emotionalism and pretended nationalism by those who are bent on politicizing an otherwise ordinary navigation incident into an international fracas,” Panelo said in a statement.

“They hope to succeed in getting the approbation of the nation on a misguided theory that the administration is pursuing a foreign policy of subservience to China, a belief that is both wrong and unacceptable,” he added. – With Christina Mendez, Alexis Romero, Paolo Romero, Evelyn Macairan, Cecille Suerte Felipe

CHINA PHILIPPINES RECTO BANK INCIDENT
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