Drilon to gov’t: Use Recto Bank report to sue Chinese crew
MANILA, Philippines — Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon urged the government on Monday to file a case against the Chinese crew involved in the June 9 Recto Bank incident in the West Philippine Sea.
Twenty-two Filipino fishermen were reportedly left afloat in the open sea after a Chinese vessel hit their boat.
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) investigated the incident and classified it as a “very serious marine casualty,” contrary to President Rodrigo Duterte’s earlier remark that it was a “little maritime incident.”
“First thing: We must make this report public. I don’t know if it has just been released. I’m not aware that it has been released. I call on Malacañang to officially release the Coast Guard-Marina report,” Drilon said in an interview at his office in the Senate.
“Number two: The Marina-Coast Guard report can be the basis of an action for damages under the Fisheries Code because there was clear poaching, and not only poaching, there was an attack on our fishermen.”
“Questions are being raised on the effectivity of an action being taken in our domestic courts — meaning, file an action for damages against the Chinese vessel,” he added.
Even without identifying the Chinese crew, Drilon said the government could start with identifying the vessel and just use John Does in the case.
The senator stressed the importance of filing a case against the Chinese crew, noting that non-action on the PCH- Marina report could be interpreted as an “acquiescence.”
“We may not be able to completely enforce our laws because of limitations such as hindi man nga natin kilala kung sino itong mga ito, but the fact that we are acting on the incident will be an argument that will favor us in the future when we continuously defend our position that the Recto Bank is part of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ),” Drilon pointed out.
“Otherwise, as I said, the non-action can be considered as acquiescence and in the future can prejudice our assertion of sovereign rights over the EEZ,” he said.
He explained that, upon a summary finding of administrative liability, any foreign person or corporation or entity proved to be violating the Fisheries Code could be punished with a fine of $600,000 dollars up to $1 million.
The case, he said, could be filed either by the government or the Filipino fishermen in a local court that has jurisdiction over the Recto Bank.
China, for its part, should identify the captain of the Chinese vessel, its crew members, and its owner, Drilon said.
“They can make their own report, that’s expected from a sovereign country,” he said.
While there could also be criminal liability, Drilon said it would be useless to speculate about it at this point since the Chinese crew had not been identified yet.
(Editor: Alexander T. Magno)
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