MALACAÑANG has received the results of the Maritime Industry Authority and Philippine Coast Guard investigation into the June 9 Recto Bank incident of a Chinese vessel sinking a Filipino boat carrying 22 fishermen.
This was confirmed on Saturday by Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Bangkok, Thailand, which is being attended by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Panelo said Malacañang has received the results but has yet to read them.
This comes nearly two weeks after a Chinese vessel reportedly rammed and sunk a Philippine-flagged fishing boat at Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea.
Twenty-two Filipino fishermen were allegedly abandoned at sea by the Chinese.
Malacañang had also said earlier that President Rodrigo Duterte expressed openness to China’s proposal of a joint probe into the incident.
Panelo said they will wait for China to “clarify the dynamics” of the joint investigation, but the Philippines and China will probably conduct their investigation separately, and later share the respective findings with each other.
Panelo also said there is no need for a neutral party to investigate the incident if the Philippines and China “agree” on the results.
He said that the 22 Filipino fishermen, as well as the Vietnamese and Chinese fishermen involved in the incident will be interviewed for the joint investigation.
No surrender of sovereignty
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra yesterday said that the Philippines will not be surrendering its sovereignty in case the proposed joint investigation with China pushes through in connection with the June 9 Recto Bank incident.
Guevarra shrugged off the opinions of of ousted chief justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno and Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. that the joint investigation would violate the country’s sovereignty.
“There is no issue of sovereignty involved in the investigation of this marine or navigation incident at sea. Our EEZ (exclusive economic zone) is not part of Philippine territory,” he explained.
“We only have sovereign rights to exploit the natural resources found therein,” Guevarra said.
Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, sovereignty pertains to the exclusive legal authority of a state over its waters, particularly its internal waters and territorial seas.
On the other hand, “sovereign rights” pertain to “limited” entitlements or privileges of a state to its EEZ.
But having sovereign rights over a particular area does not confer sovereignty and is not tantamount to a sovereign territory.
Guevarra also said that the joint inquiry only intends to answer factual issues that could help resolve the incident and serve justice to the aggrieved party, particularly the 22 fishermen who were left afloat after their fishing boat sank during the allision.
“The only issues in the joint inquiry are which party was at fault for the incident and the amount of restitution due to the offended party, and whether there was any liability on the Chinese side for leaving the scene of the incident without extending help to the Filipino fishermen,” he pointed out.
With Hector Lawas