Lorenzana demands sanctions on Chinese crew over Recto Bank incident

Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 14 2019 03:15 AM

MANILA—Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana wants sanctions imposed on the crew of a Chinese ship that rammed a Filipino fishing boat off Recto Bank, despite an apology from the shipowner.

“The Philippine government needs to exhaust all available legal and diplomatic remedies for the government of China to require reparation from and institute sanctions to the master and crew of the Chinese vessel,” he said in a statement at a forum hosted by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Friday.

He said the abandonment of 22 Filipino fishers of F/B Gem-Ver was inhumane and a violation of international laws, such as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the declaration of conduct between parties in the South China Sea.

Lorenzana said the Chinese government has penal jurisdiction over the crew of the ship flying its flag.

“Our government needs China’s cooperation to pursue civil action on the incident that caused serious damage to F/B Gem-Ver and nearly the loss of life of 22 fishermen left at sea,” he said.

In the same statement, Lorenzana said “the presence of both Chinese and Vietnamese fishing vessels in Recto Bank constitutes poaching,” with an equivalent fine of as much as US$1 million. 

It was a Vietnamese fishing vessel that rescued the Filipino fishers who were left floating at sea following the allision.

Lorenzana also said the Philippine government should press on China that its gray zone operations, which have become the “new normal” in the South China Sea, endanger the safety and life of fishermen and escalate tensions in the region. 

Gray zone operation is a tactic employed by China wherein it uses non-military assets for military purposes, such as ordinary fishing boats being used as maritime militia, and China Coast Guard ships being deployed to prevent navies of other nations from engaging with “civilian” vessels.