‘Premature’ to say Chinese vessel in WPS violated UNCLOS

MANILA It is premature to say that the presence of the Chinese vessel, which allegedly rammed and abandoned a Filipino fishing boat near the Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea on June 9, is a violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), MalacaAang said on Monday.

Premature pa nga kasi hindi pa natin alam ang facts. Ang alam natin initially hindi ba alam natin iniwan, tapos they're disclaiming it (It's still premature because we don't know the facts yet. What we know is initially they were abandoned but then China is disclaiming it), said Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo in a Palace briefing.

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, in a statement, earlier said the presence of the Chinese fishing vessel within the Philippine's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is a violation of UNCLOS.

In the arbitration at The Hague, the tribunal ruled that the failure of China to prevent its fishing vessels, even those privately owned, from fishing within Philippine (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea was a violation of UNCLOS, Carpio said.

Antayin muna natin, he (Carpio) will be right kung totoo iyong talagang iniwan iyong mga Pilipino sa barko (Let's wait for the results of the investigation, he will be right if it's true that the Filipinos were really abandoned), Panelo commented.

Both findings

Panelo, meanwhile, said the Palace will consider the results of both investigations being conducted by Filipino and Chinese authorities.

We are waiting for the final results of the investigation being conducted by the Chinese government, and that applies to us also because we are also conducting our own investigations, Panelo said.

Both findings will be considered. Let's wait for the facts considering that our initial facts as relayed to us are being disputed, he added.

He said while the probe is ongoing, initial claims will be considered premature" but clarified this did not mean that Palace is doubting the testimony of Filipino fishermen who claimed that they were abandoned at sea.

If the Philippines and China have different results in their respective investigations, Panelo said an arbiter or judge will step in to determine who is telling the truth.

O kung magkaiba, eh 'di pag-uusapan natin bakit magkaiba. Bakit sinong mas tama. O siguro (If we have different findings, let's talk about why they're different. Why who is more correct. Or perhaps), we need to resolve that to an objective arbiter, Panelo said.

He said the Philippine and Chinese authorities can also resolve the issue via Bilateral Consultative Mechanism.

Asked if different findings could also be resolved through the Permanent Court of Arbitration, Panelo said he will leave it to Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. to answer the question.

Not silent

Panelo also defended President Rodrigo Duterte from criticism that the latter has been silent by not making any pronouncement in relation to the sinking of the Filipino fishing boat.

He's (Duterte's) not silent, he's waiting for the facts to set in before he makes any declaration, Panelo said.

Tama si Presidente (The President is right), you cannot be responding kaagad nang (immediately) you have to know the facts. Iyon angtraining ng isang abogado (That's the training of a lawyer), he added.

Panelo also reiterated that as a matter of policy, the government will not allow any assault on Philippine sovereignty.

Sovereignty is never a subject of negotiation, Panelo said.

Pag nga alam na natin ang facts at alam natin na tayo ang nasa disadvantage sa nangyaring iyon o 'di siyempre mayroon tayong mga gagawin (When we know the facts and we know that we are at the disadvantage in the incident, of course we'll do something) to show how serious we are in the protection of our sovereignty as well as our countrymen. Until such time, maghintay muna tayo (let's wait), he added.

Last week, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. filed a diplomatic protest against China in relation to the alleged abandonment of Filipino fishermen at sea.

The Chinese Embassy, however, denied the abandonment and instead claimed that their vessel was besieged by several Filipino fishing boats.

"The Chinese captain tried to rescue the Filipino fishermen, but was afraid of being besieged by other Filipino fishing boats. Therefore, having confirmed the fishermen from the Filipino boat were rescued on board of other Filipino fishing boats, 42212 sailed away from the scene," the embassy said in a statement.

Junel Insigne, captain of the F/B GEM-VIR1 from Occidental Mindoro, reportedly said the Chinese vessel stopped for a while and flashed its lights but instead of rescuing them, the Chinese vessel left the sinking Filipino fishing boat.

According to an ABS-CBN report, Insigne said it took them two hours to find the Vietnamese vessel that rescued them. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency

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