PH may raise China 'hit and run' in ASEAN Summit, says foreign affairs official

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 18 2019 12:08 PM

Filipino fishing boat FB GEM-VER was rammed by a Chinese ship off Recto (Reed Bank) on June 9. Jeff Canoy, ABS-CBN News

MANILA- The upcoming Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit in Thailand gives the Philippines a chance to raise the ramming of a Filipino boat by a Chinese ship to the international community, a Foreign Affairs official said Tuesday.

Manila may raise the incident during the countries' exchange of views on regional developments when member-states convene in Bangkok on June 22 to 23, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Junever Mahilum-West said.

"Incidents like what happened to our fishermen will be among those on the agenda, during the negotiations," she told reporters during a Palace briefing.

"During the exchange of views on regional developments, there is an opening to raise these issues. Because incidents like what happened, emphasized the important of having a Code of Conduct so that we could avoid, we could prevent these incidents from happening in the future," she said.

Twenty-two Filipino fishermen were left at sea by a Chinese crew that rammed their fishing boat anchored at the Recto (Reed) Bank off Palawan. The Filipinos were later rescued by a Vietnamese fishing vessel.

The incident, which has sparked uproar, prompted the Philippines to file a "strongly-worded" diplomatic protest even as it awaits the results of China's investigation into the incident.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who will attend this year's summit, dismissed the sinking as just "a maritime incident."

While there is an opening for Manila to raise the issue in the Thailand summit, Mahilum-West noted that it is not the "best venue" to do so.

"Yes, it’s a very important issue, but I don’t think the summit is the best venue to discuss that issue because ASEAN discusses South China Sea in the context of the code of conduct, which is being discussed between China and ASEAN member states," she said.

ASEAN member-states may tackle the Recto Bank incident in "very general terms," she said.

The Philippines is the coordinator of the ASEAN-China dialogue partnership until 2021 where it leads negotiations on drafting a code of conduct for the disputed South China Sea.

"In the negotiations of the code of conduct, we are emphasizing as well self-restraint and desisting from any action that would cause tension in the region in general," she said.

Manila is locked in a dispute with Beijing over the resource-rich South China Sea which is also being partly claimed by Vietnam, Malaysia, and Taiwan.