Senators denounce ‘acts of inhumanity’ by Chinese crew

MANILA Three senators on Thursday denounced the reported abandonment of Filipino crewmen by the Chinese vessel that hit their boat in the West Philippine Sea, saying the Chinese crew committed acts of inhumanity in violation of international laws and treaties.

In separate statements, Senators Richard Gordon, Franklin Drilon and Aquilino Pimentel III said the abandonment of the Filipino crew by the Chinese vessel that rammed their boat is a clear violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Both China and the Philippines are signatories to the treaty.

I take umbrage at the Chinese crew's act of leaving and abandoning the Filipino crew after their boat collided with the latter's vessel and sank. They committed acts of inhumanity by leaving and abandoning people who are in peril of the sea and they should answer for it, Gordon said.

I hope anybody in the West Philippine Sea or anywhere in the world would understand that there are responsibilities by all peoples for those who are in peril of the sea, he added.

Meanwhile, Drilon said the Chinese vessel's action is deplorable and can no way be justified.

The Philippine government and the Filipino people should call out China for not honoring its obligations to rescue any person in distress at sea or in danger of being lost at sea, in accordance with international laws and treaties, Drilon said.

The Senate Minority Leader pointed out that under Article 98 of the UNCLOS, every state is required to render assistance to any person in distress or in danger of being lost at sea.

Under the UNCLOS, Drilon said it is the duty of the state to oblige masters of vessels flying their flag to follow the provision; therefore, both State-owned vessels and private vessels flying the State's flag are mandated to render assistance to people in distress at sea.

The duty to rescue individuals applies without distinction and with no regard to the nationality and status of the person/s in need of rescue at sea. The status or activity in which the individual/s needing rescue is/are engaged is irrelevant, Drilon said.

The only exception under the UNCLOS is that when it would endanger the rescuing vessel, he said.

The failure to act on duty to rescue gives rise to state responsibility. Such duty is so critical that it is even imposed during wartime, he added.

He said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) should file a diplomatic protest against China for this latest incident in the WPS.

"I urge the DFA to file a diplomatic protest immediately. This incident demands strong and immediate action. We cannot let this incident pass. No self-respecting nation will allow that," Drilon said.

Like Gordon and Drilon, Pimentel also pointed out that the rescue of all persons in distress at sea is a matter of humanitarian duty.

"No matter who was at fault, the crew of a sinking ship must never be abandoned by an able ship. The rescue of all persons in distress at sea is not only an obligation under international maritime law, but it is also a matter of humanitarian duty," Pimentel said.

He noted that under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), there is a general obligation to proceed to the assistance of ships in distress.

Logic dictates that such duty becomes more pronounced if it is your ship that caused the distress. In this case, there was a total breach of that duty to help, he said.

I urge the authorities to immediately find out the Flag State of the offending vessel so that the Philippines can file the appropriate diplomatic protest," Pimentel said.

The latest incident involving Philippine and Chinese vessels happened near Recto Bank on the night of June 9.

According to reports, the Philippine ship, F/B GIMVER1, was anchored when it was hit by the still unidentified Chinese vessel, endangering the lives of 22 Filipino fishermen.

Instead of rescuing the Filipino crew, the Chinese vessel immediately left the scene, leaving the 22 fishermen at the mercy of the elements.

They were later rescued by a Vietnamese fishing vessel in the area.

Pimentel said the crew of the Vietnamese vessel should be commended for their actions.

"We thank the crew of the Vietnamese vessel that assisted our fellow Filipinos to safety. They must be commended for responding to the call of duty," Pimentel said. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency