Vice President Leni Robredo wants those responsible for a Chinese vessel’s alleged ramming of a Filipino fishing boat near Recto Bank last June 9 to face Philippine courts.
In a statement Sunday, Robredo urged the Department of Foreign Affairs to demand from the Chinese government to find the persons responsible so they can be held accountable in line with international treaties and Philippine laws.
“We strongly urge the Department of Foreign Affairs to demand from the Chinese government to find those responsible and recognize Philippine jurisdiction, so they can face trial before our courts. Justice for the 22 Filipino fishermen requires that our courts assume jurisdiction,” she said.
The Philippine Vice President raised doubts Beijing will mete out justice on those involved as the Chinese Embassy denied there was a hit-and-run following its fishing vessel’s decision to flee the area while Filipino fishermen’s boat was sinking. This story was supported by anecdotes from the Filipino fishermen who survived the ordeal.
She said: “While we acknowledge the statement of the Chinese ambassador that their government will investigate the incident, we should ask: If the Chinese government has already presented their own version of the events and will not even accept that a wrong was committed, how can we expect it to mete justice on those responsible?”
The Chinese Embassy said it had conducted a preliminary probe, where it claimed that the fishing vessel Yuemaobinyu 42212 was moored near the bank, before it was besieged by around seven or eight Filipino boats. The statement, initially posted Friday, was taken down from its social media platforms before appearing again on their newsfeeds after several hours — without the embassy explaining why.
She also called out the Duterte administration for adopting a “less assertive” policy in enforcing the Philippines’ rights over its exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea, which was recognized by the 2016 international tribunal ruling. President Rodrigo Duterte’s pivot to Chinese powers has been followed by little to no development in the enforcement of the ruling.
“Its failure to consistently contest Chinese encroachment in our waters was inevitably going to result in less and less respect of our laws and sovereignty from China — and to the direct harm of our people. As our own history has repeatedly taught us, abuse, left unchallenged, will only encourage further abuse, giving rise to impunity,” she said.
Recto Bank, a feature located just 85 miles off Philippine shores, is within the country’s 200-nautical mile EEZ and is part of the Palawan province.
Beijing’s nine-dash line claim, which covers almost all of the South China Sea including the West Philippine Sea where the bank is located, was rejected by the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration in the ruling. However, China has refused to observe the decision.