Senators denounce sea incident

Panfilo Lacson

SENATORS condemned the crew of a Chinese ship who abandoned Filipino fishermen at sea after their vessels collided near Recto Bank in West Philippine Sea.

The lawmakers also questioned the sincerity of the Chinese government’s friendly relationship with the Philippines.

“We don’t treat our friends like that and we don’t expect to be treated that way either,” Senator Panfilo Lacson said in a statement.

Lacson said the incident calls for a “hard and serious punitive action” by the Chinese government against the Chinese crew involved.

“This incident calls for a leader-to-leader talk. As I said, nothing short of serious punitive action by the Chinese government against those responsible can convince us of a real friendly relationship between our peoples,” he added.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon asked,  “What do you call a friend who abandons a friend in times of need?”

“This incident demands strong and immediate action. We cannot let this incident pass. No self-respecting nation will allow that,” said Drilon as he called on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to immediately file a diplomatic protest against China.

Meanwhile, Sen. JV Ejercito considered the incident as “bullying” by China.

“Bullying. This is just too much!” Ejercito said on Twitter.

“Pinalubog na ang barko, iniwan pa ang crew members sa dagat. Kaibigan ba talaga ang China? Kaya gusto ko sila sikuhin kapag sumisingit sa mga linya,” he added.

Sen. Joel Villanueva  considered the incident a “huge insult” to the Filipinos.

“We strongly condemn the irresponsible actions of the Chinese vessel’s crew. Saving the lives of fellow seafarers should be top priority regardless of nationality or flag. The incident shows the need for greater accountability and enforcement of international laws in the West Philippine Sea,” Villanueva said.

He then called on Filipinos to “assert our rights over the West Philippine sea and our freedom to navigate and exploit the resources within our exclusive economic zone.”

For her part, opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros called on President Rodrigo Duterte to recall the country’s ambassador and consuls to China.

“It stands to reason that if President Duterte can order the recall of our envoy and consuls in Canada over a dispute on garbage, he can do the same to defend and secure the lives of our fisherfolk and the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Hontiveros said.

She added that the order should remain in full effect until the Chinese government has identified the Chinese vessel, whether civilian or military, that collided with and sank the Filipino boat and explain its presence in the West Philippine Sea.

The senator said the Chinese government should also identify and punish the captain and entire crew of the Chinese vessel who abandoned the distressed fisherfolk at sea.