Palace doubts Filipino fishers ‘besieged’ Chinese vessel at Recto Bank
MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang now said it doubts China’s claim that its vessel was “besieged” by Filipino fishermen after an incident at Recto (Reed) Bank in the West Philippine Sea.
“First of all, how can that be? [That] they will be besieged, eh nabangga nga eh, nabangga at kumalat na nga, iyong mga Filipino fishermen nakakapit na nga doon sa almost submerged boat. So parang malabo iyong – baka imagination [nila],” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Tuesday in an interview with CNN Philippines.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said a Chinese vessel rammed and eventually sunk the boat of 22 Filipino fishermen, whom it also abandoned in the open sea, last June 9.
In a statement on June 14, the Chinese embassy claimed that the Chinese vessel was “berthed” when around seven or eight Filipino fishing boats besieged it.
“Not really,” Panelo said when asked if he believed China’s version of the story.
He then raised questions on why the Chinese vessel left the Filipino fishermen at sea.
“You know, I’m a lawyer and I want to know exactly: why did you think that you were being besieged? For one, there is only one vessel. But I understand they were pala 19 boats, 19 fishermen’s boats. Merong mother vessel, pero merong 19 na nagkalat doon. So, ang tanong ko: iyon ba ang sinasabi ninyo?” noted Panelo, who also serves as President Rodrigo Duterte’s chief legal counsel.
“Number two, kung iyon ang sinasabi ninyo, is that valid enough [to] justify to leave the fisherman in distress? Oh iyon ang susunod na tanong doon,” he added.
Panelo cited that under Article 98 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), any fishing vessel should rescue “a vessel in distress or passengers needing help, and if does not endanger yourselves.”
The Palace official reiterated the government’s condemnation of the Chinese vessel abandoning the Filipino fishermen.
“It’s condemnable. Because human decency should make you help someone in distress. Eh kung nakita mo nang nakabangga ka, tapos nandoon sa tubig, ba’t hindi mo naman tutulungan,” he said. (Editor: Katherine G. Adraneda)
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