Recto Bank fishing incident tackled at Saturday press forum

CenPEG June 18, 2019

The June 9 fishing incident at the Recto Bank in South China involving a Filipino fishing boat and a Chinese vessel was the centerpiece issue during the Saturday press forum June 15 at Annabel’s, Quezon City. Invited as a panel speaker was CenPEG’s director for policy studies, Prof. Bobby M. Tuazon, together with George T. Siy of the Integrated Development Studies Institute (IDSI). The Saturday forum was also held in the light of the 44th anniversary of the opening of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and China.

Twenty-two Filipino crewmen last week said a Chinese vessel later named Yuemaobinyu 42212 from Guangdong, China, rammed their boat F/B GemVir-1 midnight of June 9 and immediately left the scene. The incident sparked a diplomatic protest from the Philippine government. In a statement issued on June 15, the Chinese Embassy in Manila admitted that a Chinese vessel was involved in the Recto Bank incident adding, however, that Yuemaobinyu 42212 was "berthed" in the area when seven or eight Filipino fishing boats "besieged" it.

Tuazon said the incident calls for getting facts first to establish whether the incident was deliberate or an accident as he urged both governments to conduct a thorough investigation. All the more reason should the existing bilateral consultative mechanisms (BCMs) of both countries resolve fishery issues now, he said. Tuazon also recalled the framework agreement on the proposed Code of Conduct (COC) between China and Asean, which includes provisions on fishery issues. Both the BCM and the COC, once adopted, can lead to specific measures to prevent fishing incidents and establish rules-based navigation in the future, he added.

Related to this, the US ambassador to Manila Sung Kim said on June 14 any foreign government-sanctioned attacks initiated by militia or armed civilians in the South China Sea may cause the application of the US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT). Kim reiterated the US’ commitment to honor the 1951 treaty, which binds the two countries to support each other in case of an external attack. “(US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo) made clear that because the South China Sea is part of the Pacific, under the treaty itself, any armed attack on Filipino vessels, Filipino aircraft will trigger our obligations under the MDT,” he said.

The US envoy’s statement was slammed by the Chinese daily, Global Times, on June 17 as “irresponsible” with the intent “to damage China's relations with countries in the South China Sea area and destabilize the Asia-Pacific region,” quoting Chen Xiangmiao, a research fellow at the Hainan-based National Institute for the South China Sea. CenPEG News 

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