Global attention on boat ramming incident a must, says ex-SolGen
MANILA, Philippines – In order to hold China accountable for a Chinese vessels’ reported ramming of a Filipino fishing boat and desertion of its 22 crew members in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) the Philippine government should “internationalize” the matter, former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay said.
“The reason why a smaller country such as the Philippines needs to internationalize the matter, is to create an environment of accountability, to make China say, ‘Okay, we recognize the facts, we’re going to investigate it’,” Hilbay said in an interview with ABS-CBN Channel on Monday.
“But if we’re not even going to complain, then there’s no trigger for the Chinese government to investigate and find some sort of accountability, I don’t think anybody will blame the Filipino fishermen here because they were anchored safely, in Philippine waters and they were the ones who suffered the damage,” he added.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. earlier said that the Philippine government has filed a diplomatic protest following the incident that happened at the Recto (Reed) Bank in the West Philippine Sea last June 9.
Locsin, however, rejected suggestions that the government seek help from the international community.
Locsin pointed out that doing so will make it appear that “we cannot handle our own problems alone and without even trying first.”
Hilbay said that not internationalizing the issue would further weaken the government’s position “at the level of policy and to the extent that they want to help the Filipino fishermen.”
“If we complain about the matter, and China doesn’t do anything about it, then there’s a reputational cost it will have to pay,” he added.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry earlier called the reported collision as an “ordinary maritime incident” and said that it is investigating the matter.
“Such incidents can be properly handled through regular channels. It is irresponsible to resort to the media to hype and politicize the incident without verification,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said in a press briefing last week.
“China will continue the investigation into the matter of the lives and property of the two peoples and coordinate with the Philippine side to properly handle it,” he added.
Meanwhile, Vice President Leni Robredo called for a Philippine trial of the Chinese crew members who reportedly abandoned 22 Filipino fishermen after its vessel hit the latter’s fishing boat.
“We strongly urge the Department of Foreign Affairs to demand from the Chinese government to find those responsible and recognize Philippine jurisdiction, so they can face trial before our courts,” Robredo said in a statement.
“Justice for the 22 Filipino fishermen requires that our courts assume jurisdiction,” she added. (Editor: Gilbert S. Gaviola)
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