Red Cross assistance in West Philippine Sea needed – senator

Marc Jayson Cayabyab - The Philippine Star
Red Cross assistance in West Philippine Sea needed � senator
Senator Francis Tolentino on March 18, 2024.
STAR / Jesse Bustos

MANILA, Philippines — Senate Majority Leader Francis Tolentino has written Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo urging him to convince the International Committee of the Red Cross to assist in the resupply missions to Ayungin Shoal.

“In view of the escalating conditions in the West Philippine Sea, particularly near the Ayungin Shoal relative to our resupply missions, my humble recommendation is to seek the assistance of the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) based in Geneva, Switzerland,” Tolentino said in his letter to Manalo dated June 18.

The senator wrote the letter following Monday’s collision and alleged towing of Philippine vessels by the Chinese maritime militia near Ayungin Shoal, where the Philippine military is maintaining an outpost on the beached BRP Sierra Madre.

Tolentino said the ICRC, under the Geneva Convention, “can facilitate the necessary humanitarian aid to our Navy personnel living in BRP Sierra Madre and would pave the way for delivering the needed food supplies by our soldiers therein.”

The senator also urged the Philippines to file a case against China’s harassment at sea before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea or in other international councils.

Tolentino said China does not have the right to implement any domestic law in Philippine waters, including its directive to its coast guard to detain what it perceives as “trespassers” in China-claimed waters.

In a separate interview with reporters, Tolentino said the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea should help the Department of Foreign Affairs in seeking ICRC assistance under the Geneva Convention.

“The ICRC is a neutral organization in charge of providing assistance under International Humanitarian Law,” Tolentino said. “That is part of international law – which we always invoke!”

The ICRC in its website said it is an “independent, neutral organization ensuring humanitarian protection and assistance for victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence.”

The ICRC said its work is based on the Geneva Convention and on “international treaties that contain the most important rules limiting the barbarity of war.”

Asked what would happen if China blocks even the Red Cross-assisted mission, Tolentino said: “Even Hitler didn’t do that,” referring to the Nazi dictator. — Sheila Crisostomo, Jose Rodel Clapano

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