MANILA, Philippines — The government is not rushing the filing of
charges against the crew of the Chinese trawler that hit and sank a
Philippine fishing boat in the South China Sea on June 9 despite the
Philippine investigators’ finding that it was a “very serious marine
casualty” event and not just a “little maritime accident,” as President
Rodrigo Duterte has described it.
Speaking on radio on Sunday, presidential spokesperson Salvador
Panelo said the government must first see the Chinese investigation
report before filing criminal and civil cases against the trawler’s
“We also have to check the findings of the Chinese, what their
findings are, because if they admit that their crew is at fault, they
have to be accountable,” Panelo said.
The government, he said, must also ascertain China’s stance on the case before taking further steps.
“If they are willing to pay the compensation for whatever damage done
and whatever damages suffered by our fishermen, we should also find out
what their stand is. Otherwise, we will file charges against the crew,”
The owner of the Chinese trawler may face civil cases for damages,
while criminal charges such as reckless imprudence resulting in damages
may be brought against the crew of the vessel, he said.
IN: President Duterte’s public satisfaction rating reaches a new
record-high, “very good” +68 in the latest Social Weather Stations
When a Chinese trawler rammed a Philippine fishing boat in the South
China Sea last month — forcing 22 fishermen to abandon their stricken
vessel — officials in Manila were quick with condemnations.
“Cowardly,” the Philippines’ defense secretary said.
commanders followed suit, telling reporters it was time for President
Rodrigo Duterte to get tough with China after years of increasingly cozy
Instead, the Philippine leader sided with Beijing.
days after the sinking, Duterte dismissed the June 9 crash near Reed
Bank as a “little maritime accident” and rebuffed the pleas of
Philippine fishermen demanding a firmer stance to protect their crafts
in the disputed South China Sea.
“I’m sorry, but that’s how it is,” Duterte said.
the defense secretary, Delfin Lorenzana, walked back his earlier
statement, saying that perhaps the Chinese “didn’t mean to brush against
our boat.” The boat’s captain joined in — saying he was no longer sure
if they had been rammed at all.
flip-flop over the stranded fishermen — despite evidence in a coast
guard report that the Chinese mariners acted inappropriately — shows how
far the long-standing U.S. ally has fallen under Beijing’s spell.
the longer-range questions stand in sharp relief: How far will Duterte
go to support his new friends in Beijing at the risk of isolating his
key military ally, Washington?
government “has an incentive for this to be an accident,” Gregory B.
Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, said of
the boat incident.
approach, he said, is “predicated on the idea that if it’s just quiet
about its claims and nice enough, Beijing will reciprocate” with
investment and development assistance.
claims sovereignty over almost all of the South China Sea, which
connects East Asia with the Indian Ocean and is one of the world’s
busiest trade routes. In recent years Beijing has occupied and built up
disputed reefs and islets with runways, radar and military
installations, prompting alarm from the United States and its allies.
An international tribunal in 2016 upheld the Philippines’ claims to territorial waters. But China has shrugged off the ruling.
assert its territorial claims, China deploys what security experts
refer to as the maritime militia — a paramilitary force of vessels that
swarm disputed fishing grounds, conduct surveillance and prevent
Philippine and other fishermen from accessing sandbars and reefs claimed
by the Philippines and other littoral states.
militia “plays a major role in coercive activities to achieve China’s
political goals without fighting,” the Pentagon said in a report in May.
Duterte’s critics, his meek response to the boat incident demonstrates
the extent to which China has seduced him into compliance. Some accuse
him of selling out his country.
former senior official at the Armed Forces West Command, the unit
monitoring the South China Sea, said his Facebook feed is filled with
laments from his contemporaries. “They feel their work has gone to
waste,” he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the
sensitivity of the issue. “We worked so hard, just to let China do that
the security analyst, said the Philippine navy and coast guard “have to
sit there and grit their teeth, watching hundreds of Chinese boats act
with impunity in Philippine waters.”
After winning office in 2016, Duterte traveled to Beijing and declared he was ready to uncouple the Philippines from America.
Xi repaid the favor late last year, visiting Manila and promising largesse for
infrastructure projects and resources exploration — a familiar method
China has rolled out across Asia, leaving some nations with burdensome
debts. An online gambling industry in the Philippines catering to
Chinese clientele is booming.
known for a drug war that has left thousands dead, commonly reasons when
answering criticism of his policy toward Beijing that the Philippines
cannot afford war with China.
just wants to be friends with us. They gave us arms, ammunition. I
turned to them because America failed to deliver what we ordered,”
Duterte said at a campaign rally in April. Neither the president’s
office nor the defense secretary responded to requests for comment by
The Washington Post.
Under pressure from the
West over his human rights record, Duterte “owes his political survival
to China,” said independent security analyst Jose Custodio. “They’re his
bread and butter.”
In its report dated June
20, the Philippine coast guard said the Chinese trawler violated
maritime laws and “failed to . . . avoid the risk of collision and to
render assistance to a vessel in distress.” The Philippine fishermen in
the Reed Bank crash were eventually rescued by a Vietnamese ship.
Duterte told reporters the crash was “very small because nobody died.”
His spokesman said there was no contradiction between the report and the
The Chinese Embassy
said last month that its ship was “besieged by seven or eight Filipino
fishing boats,” though satellite imagery cast doubt on that account. The
Chinese side later suggested a joint investigation and rejected
Philippine officials’ idea to involve a third party. Beijing has not
released its own findings in full.
Sung Kim, the U.S. ambassador to the Philippines, called for full accountability for the Chinese crew involved in the incident.
polls also show that Filipinos still trust the United States more than
China. The military trains with the United States, and Secretary of
State Mike Pompeo has assured American intervention in the case of an
attack. Last week, Philippine Foreign Secretary Teddy Locsin said the
United States remains a “true friend” and “natural ally.”
the past, joint U.S.-Philippines military exercises involved situations
responding to aggression in the South China Sea — but in remarks last
month, Duterte said such activities could trigger a war.
frustration with Duterte’s approach, it is unlikely that military
leadership will actively urge for a policy shift. Ranting in the halls
is “as far as it will go,” said a senior armed forces official.
the security analyst, said China had gained the upper hand to the point
where it did not need to fear that it was pushing Manila’s friendship.
“They know they have the Philippines,” he said. “What happened in Reed Bank is China’s return on investment.”
MANILA, Philippines – Ninety-three percent of Filipinos believe that
it is important that the government regain control over China-occupied
islands in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), based on a Social Weather
Stations (SWS) survey.
In the survey, 1,200 Filipino adults were asked: In your opinion, is
it important that the control of the islands that China currently
occupies in the West Philippine Sea be given back to the Philippines?”
Seventy-four percent of the respondents answered “very important” while 19 percent said it is “somewhat important.”
Meanwhile, one percent answered “not at all important” and four percent were undecided on the issue.
The survey also asked about whether specific government moves and
initiatives are “right” or “wrong” in resolving conflict between the
Philippines and China about the WPS.
Four specific activities, presented in random order, were tested.
The survey showed that 89 percent said it is “not right” for the
government “to leave China alone with its infrastructure and military
presence in the claimed territories.”
Meanwhile, 92 percent answered it is “right” for the government to
“strengthen the military capability of the Philippines, especially the
Eighty-three percent of the respondents also said it is “right” for
the government “to bring the issue to international organizations, like
the United Nations or Association of Southeast Asian Nations, for a
diplomatic and peaceful negotiation with China about the claimed
Lastly, 84 percent said it is “right” for the government to “form
alliances with other countries that are ready to help us in defending
our security in the West Philippine Sea.”
The survey used face-to-face interviews with 1,200 Filipino adults
nationwide and has a sampling error margin ±3 percent for national
President Rodrigo Duterte has pointed to overseas Filipino workers
(OFWs) as the reason why he can’t take a hardline stance on China’s
aggression in the South China Sea.
“Itong mga politikong iba, gusto awayin ko. You know, ako okay lang.
Palaaway man ako. Pero you know, I have to think of Filipinos
everywhere,” he said.
every country na may Pilipino, talagang pigil ako. Mainit — mainitin
ang ulo ko pero ‘pag magdating diyan, kalma lang ako because there are
so many Filipinos going abroad,” Duterte added.
The President has been criticized for refusing to bring up the
country’s win in an international arbitral court regarding China’s
sweeping claims over the South China Sea.
Duterte has repeatedly said there will come a time that he will bring
up the arbitral ruling with Chinese President Xi Jinping, but he has
yet to say when it will happen.
The English translation of the letter referred to Reed Bank as being
in the Nansha Island Group—the Chinese name for the Spratly Islands.
The Philippines calls the Spratlys the Kalayaan Group of Islands.
"Reed Bank is not part of the Spratly Islands. Only China claims Reed
Bank is part of the Spratly Islands (Nansha to China)," Carpio said in a
"The arbitral tribunal ruled that Reed Bank is a
completely submerged area, forming part of the Philippine EEZ (exclusive
economic zone), beyond the territorial sea of any island in the
Spratlys," he said, referring to the Permanent Court of Arbitration's
(PCA) 2016 decision.
According to the PCA, Reed Bank—Recto Bank
to the Philippines and Liyue Tan to China—"is an entirely submerged reef
formation that cannot give rise to maritime entitlements."
has come to be known as the Recto Bank incident happened on June 9, when
a Chinese vessel hit the F/B Gem-Vir 1 and left the foundering boat's
22 crew members to the mercy of the sea for hours until a passing
Vietnamese vessel rescued them.
The shipowner's apology came as
President Rodrigo Duterte was set to leave for a visit to China, where
he said he would raise the incident, among others, in his meeting with