Locsin: Don’t politicize PH boat collision with HK ship

Sofia Tomacruz
'It happened in Mindoro waters and I don’t want to make those Mindoro waters into international waters just to please a few idiots back here,' says Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr

INSPECTION. Philippine Coast Guard personnel examine the damaged stem of Hong Kong bulk carrier Vienna Wood. Photo from the Philippine Coast Guard

 

MANILA, Philippines – Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr said on Wednesday, July 1, that the recent collision of a Philippine fishing boat and a Hong Kong-flagged cargo vessel off Mindoro should not be politicized since the incident took place in Philippine waters. 

Locsin made the statement in response to questions at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum on Wednesday, echoing China’s call against politicizing the incident.

Locsin likewise stressed that the collision had “nothing to do with the South China Sea” dispute between Manila and Beijing as it was a maritime accident involving a cargo vessel, which the Philippine Coast Guard was already investigating.

 

“It shouldn’t be politicized because obviously this was a commercial vessel and whether there was negligence on their part is what we are going to determine,” Locsin said at the forum.

“In that respect, it has nothing to do with the South China Sea. Whether or not a Chinese boat was there, a fishing boat would have been hit by a commercial vessel, especially one that large,” he added.

What happened? At 10:20 pm on Saturday, June 27, Philippine fishing boat Liberty 5 collided with the Hong Kong-flagged Vienna Wood which was reported to have been sailing from Subic to Australia.

Citing initial probe findings, PCG commandant Vice Admiral George Ursabia Jr said the collision was likely an accident, owing to very poor visibility, a heavy downpour, and rough sea conditions at the time.  

“Sa mga marinero naman, it is a criminal act to do that. Nagkataon lang talaga na that’s a sea lane, that’s a highway so the bulk carrier has the right to transit there (Among mariners, it is a criminal act to do that. It just so happened that’s a sea lane, that’s a highway so the bulk carrier has the right to transit there), said Ursabia. 

Despite this, Ursabia pointed out that the Hong Kong-flagged vessel did not try to rescue the 14 Filipino boat crew – who remain missing. Because of this, Ursabia said the Hong Kong Vessel may face civil and criminal liabilities over the incident.  (READ: PCG search on for missing fishermen who collided with Hong Kong-flagged ship)

Locsin said at the Wednesday forum that the Department of Foreign Affairs will aid the justice department in filing for claims. 

Asked if the Philippines will file a protest over the collission, Locsin said that unlike the sinking of Philippine fishing boat Gem-Ver, the Philippines would only file a diplomatic protest “if called for.”  

“In the earlier case [of Gem-Ver], because of this suspicion that many vessels out there are Chinese militia, we sent it out there…. This is now a purely commercial vessel. If there is a diplomatic note that is required, it will be sent,” Locsin said. 

“But again, it happened in Mindoro waters and I don’t want to make those Mindoro waters into international waters just to please a few idiots back here. So we’re gonna find out, and if one is called for, then it will be done because I certainly don’t hesitate to send those things,” he added. 

Malcañang earlier said that the incident will not affect relations between the Philippines and China as it would simply be resolved under Philippine laws. – Rappler.com

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.