'Reed Bank incident may have been meant to drive away Filipino fishermen'

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 18 2019 11:59 PM

A maritime expert believes the ramming of a Filipino boat by a Chinese vessel in the West Philippine Sea may have been meant to drive away Filipino fishermen in the area.

Speaking on ANC's "Beyond Politics," Dr. Chester Cabalza of the National Defense College of the Philippines said the Chinese may have been trying to give a strong presence in the area.

"These Chinese are trying to set their foot, give it their strong presence, in the area. You know there is a triangulation there. The Paracel, the Spratlys where the Reed Bank is and then the Scarborough Shoal. These triangles are major points for them, and they really have to patrol it, whether it's the militia or the Coast Guard, the white ships and the gray ships. Everything is calculated there, for them," he explained.

Cabalza also echoed others in saying the Chinese crew had a moral obligation to help the Filipino fishermen in distress, assuming that the Reef Bank incident was an accident.

"The question there is why they didn’t do their responsibility. We have this international convention for safety of life at sea. It says when there is an accident, incident, a maritime incident there, someone has to call. That's why you have the emergency calls there. But it seems like nobody called. Instead, the Chinese vessel just left and ignored the Filipino fisherfolk there," he said.

He also believes President Rodrigo Duterte's cautious statements on the matter is his way of trying to preserve the country's relationship with China.

"I think, you know, right now president is doing a balancing act. At the moment also not to displace the 'big brother' there, and I think that's the white elephant in the room. I think we have to understand the situation but of course, everyone was like, expecting him to definitely give that push," Cabalza said.