Joint probe with China eyed

June 20, 2019
Filipino fishermen

JUSTICE Secretary Menardo Guevarra yesterday disclosed that a recent Cabinet cluster meeting has agreed on a proposal for a joint maritime inquiry with China into the June 9 sinking of a Filipino boat by a Chinese vessel at Recto Bank.

Citing security matters, Guevarra, however, refused to give more details about the Cabinet cluster meeting when pressed by mediamen.

The justice chief also said that it was agreed upon in the meeting that there’s no need, as of the moment, for a legal action under international maritime laws against China and the crew of the Chinese vessel.

“Legal action while available not yet contemplated. Cabinet agreed during special cabinet cluster meeting last Monday to conduct a marine inquiry, preferably joint inquiry with China,” Guevarra said

Twenty-two Filipino fishermen were left in the open sea for six hours after the ramming incident.

A few of them paddled to a Vietnamese vessel far away to seek help. The Vietnamese vessel rescued all the Filipinos.

The fishermen claimed that foreign vessels have been fishing at Recto Bank since 2014. Recto Bank is 85 nautical miles from Palawan and is within the country’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Guevarra said a third or neutral party maybe called in case of disagreements on factual matters during the proposed joint inquiry with China on the Recto Bank incident.

“Kung may disagreement as to the factual findings, a referral to a neutral third party may be considered,” Guevarra added.

He said the Cabinet cluster agreed to the proposal for a joint investigation to be able to “establish the true facts, allocate responsibility for restitution, and adopt measures to prevent or avoid similar incidents in the future.”

Also, Guevarra said the Department of Justice (DOJ) will wait for the result of the full marine inquiry before determining the next action to take.

Guevarra underscored the need for a joint inquiry with China to avoid problems in case the two countries conduct separate investigations of their own.

“I would prefer that (joint inquiry) para isahan na lang. Baka iba findings nila, iba ang findings natin magulo pa. So why don’t they just conduct it jointly. Ngayon kung may disagreement that is probably the time for a mutual third party,” he said.