We’ll wait

The “hit-and-run” incident in Recto Bank on F/V Gem Ver1 allegedly by a Chinese ship looks bad as it is, almost threatening to undermine the Philippines’ relations with China.

President Duterte broke his momentary silence and expressed trust and confidence in the Chinese government’s sincerity in giving justice to the 22 Filipino fishermen as soon as culpability for the maritime violation is ascertained. 

Beijing must give the culprits the severe penalty for abandoning the Filipino crew in distress after ramming the fishing vessel. It made everything look iintentional.

The truth is, whether or not the collision was intentional remains to be determined. Initial reports are based solely on the account of the Filipino boat captain who was the only one awake in his fishing vessel that fateful night.

It is now between the word of the Filipino captain and the skipper of that Chinese ship on what really transpired that evening.

In the meantime, we must allow the parallel investigations to be conducted by the authorities of both countries, first to identify the “Chinese vessel” and its crew who are involved in the collision northeast of Spratlys in the West Philippine Sea. 

They should question, too, the Vietnamese fishing boat crew "who happened to be there also."

Just as expected, anti-Duterte provocateurs want the President to invoke right away the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the United States in a show of force against China, and throw the country and all of Southeast Asia into a state of emergency.   

They claim it as a deliberate attack, as well as an intrusion into the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) although former Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay says the incident, in fact, took place in “international waters.” He points out, too, the F/V Gem Ver1 is a “private” fishing vessel, and therefore, the case may not be within the purview of the MDT. 

Isn’t it preposterous to jump to conclusion as the opposition says that Beijing, through its militia, purposely caused the sea collision to test our mettle and patriotism within two days prior to the celebration of Philippine Independence Day? 

It’s a stretch, indeed, to think it is the case. It would not be the first but an addition to complaints of harassment against Filipino fishermen in a pattern of incursion into WPS. It would give an entirely new meaning to the phrase “China Syndrome,” popularized by a Hollywood movie of the same title. 

The least authorities of both countries can do when the perpetrators get tagged is to ensure they get prosecuted and made to compensate for the damages on F/V Gem Ver1 and the fishermen’s lost earnings. 

If our government sought reparations for those fishermen, I don’t think it would trigger an invasion or a nuclear attack from our bully neighbor.

Topics: Recto Bank , F/V Gem Ver1 , China , Rodrigo Duterte , Mutual Defense Treaty , Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone
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