Recto Bank incident violation of UNCLOS? Still premature to tell – Palace
MANILA, Philippines — It is “premature” to say that the ramming of a Filipino fishing boat in the West Philippine Sea is a violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Malacañang said Monday.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo issued the statement after Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said what happened at Recto (Reed) Bank was a “clear violation” of UNCLOS as it demonstrates China’s failure to prevent its fishing vessels from fishing within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
“Premature! Premature pa nga kasi hindi pa natin alam ang facts,” Panelo said in a Palace briefing.
Last Thursday, however, Panelo said in a statement that he Chinese crewmen who abandoned the sinking Filipino boat F/B Gem-Vir 1 and its fishermen at Recto Bank should be held accountable as it was a violation of maritime protocols.
According to the local fishermen, they were abandoned and left floating in open sea for hours after a Chinese vessel rammed their anchored boat. But the Chinese Embassy in Manila denied that the Chinese vessel hit and abandoned F/B Gem-Vir 1 and its crewmen.
“Ang alam natin…initially alam natin iniwan tapos they [Chinese] are disclaiming it, eh ‘di may problema na naman tayo. Buti sana kung inamin nilang iniwan, then that’s a violation (of UNCLOS),” Panelo explained.
“Hintayin muna natin. He (Carpio) will be right kung talagang iniwan ‘yung mga Pilipino,” he added.
Panelo also rejected as mere “speculation” Vice President Leni Robredo’s call to hold accountable the Chinese vessel crew before a Philippine court.
“That’s another speculation. Hindi pa nga natin alam eh… ‘yun ang mga kasama sa mga premature (remarks). Hindi pa natin alam ang facts, so let’s wait for the facts considering that our initial facts, which were relayed to us, were being disputed,” he said.
The Palace official likewise defended President Rodrigo Duterte’s supposed “silence” over the issue.
The outspoken Duterte, according to Panelo, is just waiting for the facts to set in before making any pronouncement.
“He’s not silent. He’s waiting for the facts to set in before making any declaration,” said Panelo, who also serves as Duterte’s chief legal counsel.
More than a week since the incident at Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea, Duterte has yet to publicly address the issue.
(Editor: Katherine G. Adraneda)
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