Robredo, senators oppose joint probe of boat ramming incident
June 24 2019 12:03 AM
Maria Robredo: opposition to joint inquiry

By Glee Jalea /Manila Times

Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo, along with Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senators Panfilo Lacson and Francis Pangilinan, has opposed a joint inquiry with China into the Recto (Reed) Bank incident in the South China (West Philippine) Sea, days after she held a dialogue with and provided aid to the fishermen who were rammed by a Chinese vessel and were left afloat at sea.
In her weekly radio show yesterday, Robredo said a multilateral investigation would be better to allow a third party to come up with unbiased results.
“I am not confident with this proposal because the primary issue here is we are the ones being bullied. That is the reason why we are not confident with bilateral talks. What we want is multilateral, a third party is involved… someone that is not part of the problem and can investigate without biases,” she added.
A staunch critic of the Duterte administration’s soft stance on the South China Sea issue, Robredo reiterated that Recto Bank is an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippines and its resources should be enjoyed by Filipinos.
She said the Vietnamese who saved the Filipino crew should be part of the investigation.
On Friday, Robredo visited the crew of F/B Gem-Ver in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro and provided them with P50,000 worth of financial assistance sourced from her flagship project, the Angat Buhay programme.
During the dialogue, she listened to accounts of the fishermen, who claimed that at least 11 Vietnamese came to their rescue two hours after they were rammed and left afloat by the Chinese vessel.
In opposing a joint probe of the Recto Bank incident, Drilon also yesterday said the proposal could weaken the Philippines’ maritime claims in the South China Sea. He added that the Chinese vessel that rammed the Philippine fishing boat could be slapped with up to 
$1.2mn under the law.
According to him, the Chinese vessel violated Section 91 of Republic Act (RA) 10654, which makes it unlawful for any foreign person, corporation or entity to fish or operate any fishing vessel in Philippine waters.
RA 10654 was enacted into law during Drilon’s time as Senate president in 2015.
It states that upon a summary finding of administrative liability, any foreign person, corporation or entity in violation of this section shall be punished by an administrative fine of $600,000 to $1mn, or its equivalent in Philippine currency.
Upon conviction by a court of law, Drilon said the offender should be punished with a fine of $1.2mn or its equivalent in Philippine currency.
Lacson noted that the 2016 Hague ruling “expressly stated that Recto Bank is part of the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile EEZ, and, therefore, cannot be claimed by China.”
“Allowing a joint investigation with China and a third party may be interpreted as a waiver of our right of ownership of Recto Bank,” he said.
Drilon and Pangilinan said a joint investigation was against the Philippine Fisheries Code.
“Part also of the government’s mandate is to address foreign illegal entrants in our waters. The Recto Bank incident is already a shoo-in to these provisions,” Pangilinan said.

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