The collision between a Philippine fishing boat and a Hong Kong-flagged cargo vessel off the coast of Occidental Mindoro last June 28 is “an issue of enforcement of Philippine laws,” Malacañang said on Wednesday.
“Although it involves a collision where one of them is a foreign-flagged [cargo] ship, since it occurred in Philippine waters, it will be the Philippine courts that will determine both criminal and civil liability,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, who is also a lawyer, said in an interview.
Roque insisted the incident will be resolved under the country’s admiralty laws because it happened in Philippine territorial waters.
At least 14 Filipinos went missing when their fishing boat, FV Liberty 5, collided with Hong Kong-registered bulk carrier vessel, MB Vienna Wood, on Sunday off the western coast of Mamburao town in Mindoro Occidental province.
Roque said the incident would be investigated by the Maritime Industry Authority and the Philippine Coast Guard.
“I think it is just controversial because it happened nearly within Philippine waters. This will be investigated by the MARINA, by the Coast Guard. And if there’s criminal responsibility, then the fiscal will make a preliminary investigation and file the criminal information report,” he said.
Roque also explained that insofar as the damage is concerned, it will proceed as an admiralty case falling within the regional trial court of Mindoro.
“The problem here is it is not necessarily an issue of international law,” he said.
The latest sea mishap followed the June 9, 2019 incident involving a Chinese vessel and Filipino fishing boat Gem-Ver1 at Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea.
On Tuesday, China expressed willingness to provide assistance to the Philippines in relation to the June 28 collision between the Philippine fishing boat and Hong Kong-flagged cargo vessel.
Roque, however, said the Philippines would not allow any foreign entities to meddle in the issue.
“It’s the Philippines’ exclusive jurisdiction. We will not allow foreigners to exercise criminal jurisdiction and civil jurisdiction over a matter that the Philippine authorities have exclusive jurisdiction,” Roque said.