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TIMELINE: The Reed Bank incident

From ‘cowardly action’ to ‘little accident’ to ‘friendly consultations’
/ 05:11 AM June 23, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — Two weeks ago, the Philippine fishing boat Gem-Vir 1 anchored near Recto Bank sank after it was hit by a Chinese trawler. Here is a timeline of the key events that followed and the statements issued by Philippine officials and other concerned parties:

June 9 – FB Gem-Vir 1 is hit by a Chinese vessel around midnight, sinking the Philippine boat. The Chinese vessel flees the scene and leaves the 22 fishermen, who struggle to stay afloat for four hours until a Vietnamese fishing vessel rescues them.

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June 12 – Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana denounces the hit-and-run and calls for an investigation and diplomatic action.

“We condemn in the strongest terms the cowardly action of the Chinese fishing vessel and its crew for abandoning the Filipino crew. This is not the expected action from a responsible and friendly people,” he says.

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Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. also denounces the action of the Chinese vessel.

“I take my cue from Defense Secretary Lorenzana. What is contemptible and condemnable is the abandonment of the crew to the elements,” he tweets.

June 13 – Locsin says the Philippines has filed a diplomatic protest against China. Malacañang says President Duterte is “outraged” by the incident and likely to take resolute action.

“We want to find out first. If it was intentional, that’s a different story. If it is intentional, it is an act of aggression,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo says.

June 14 – The fishermen insists that the Chinese vessel is the culprit behind the sinking of their ship. Junel Insigne, the captain of the Gem-Vir 1, tells reporters he is sure the crew of the Chinese vessel saw his fishing boat before the collision. Insigne says the Chinese vessel turned its lights on seconds before it rammed the Gem-Vir 1 and fled the scene with its lights off after his boat began to sink.

The Chinese Embassy in Manila acknowledges that a Chinese trawler is involved, but denies the incident is a hit-and-run. It says the crew of the Chinese trawler Yuemaobinyu 42212 accidentally “bumped” into the Gem-Vir 1 as it tried to maneuver and then left the scene due to safety fears.

“The Chinese captain tried to rescue the Filipino fishermen, but was afraid of being besieged by seven or eight Filipino fishing boats,” the statement says.

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June 15 – Insigne disputes the Chinese Embassy statement.

“I got angry because [the Chinese Embassy] had a contradictory story. Their story is false. If they were hoping to rescue us, then why did they leave us,” Insigne says.

The DFA announces that the sinking of Gem-Vir 1 has been referred to the Maritime Safety Committee of the London-based International Maritime Organization.

June 16 – Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, designated as cochair, together with Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, of a group that will provide assistance to the crew of the Gem-Vir 1, says the Chinese trawler could not have intentionally hit the fishing boat.

June 17 – After being silent about the incident for a week, the President dismisses the sinking as a “little maritime accident” and says he will not go to war with China over the incident.

“What happened in the collision is a maritime incident. Do not believe the dumb politicians who want to send the Philippine Navy. You do not send gray ships there. That is only a collision of ships,” Mr. Duterte says in a speech during a Philippine Navy event in Sangley Point.

June 18 – Speaking at the 25th anniversary of the coming into force of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Locsin says the “duty to render assistance” is enshrined in international law and that “it is a felony to abandon people in distress, especially when we cause that distress.”

June 19 – The story of the fishermen changes following a closed meeting with Piñol, who visits them in Occidental Mindoro, to give them assistance, including boats, food and cash. After meeting Piñol, Insigne, who earlier said the Chinese vessel intentionally hit his boat, says he is no longer sure if the collision was intentional.

June 20 – China proposes a joint marine inquiry with the Philippines to look into the sinking of the Gem-Vir 1.

“To find a proper solution, we suggest a joint investigation at an early date so the two sides can exchange respective initial findings and properly handle the matter through friendly consultations based on mutually recognized investigation results,” Lu Kang, a spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, says in a statement.

June 21 – Locsin rejects the proposal for joint investigation, which Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra suggested earlier during a Cabinet security cluster meeting in Malacañang.

Guevarra says it was up to President Duterte to consider his suggestion. “Let’s leave it to the President. No further comment. I respect the [secretary of foreign affairs’] opinion,” he says. —Inquirer Research

Source: Inquirer Archives

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TAGS: PH-China Relations, Recto Bank incident, Reed Bank incident
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