FOREIGN AFFAIRS Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. has reported to the United Nations (UN) the recent collision between Filipino and Chinese fishing boats near Recto Bank (Reed Bank) in the West Philippine Sea on June 9.
In a statement delivered during the 29th Meeting of States Parties to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on Monday, Locsin underscored the duty of all states to come in aid of persons in distress at sea.
“The 22 Filipino crew were left in the water until a Vietnamese vessel took them on board. We are eternally in debt to our strategic partner, Vietnam, for this act of mercy and decency,” he said.
“The incident, to put it diplomatically, highlights the moral and possibly legal — though one wouldn’t wager on it — imperative of coming to the rescue of persons in distress at sea. Article 98 of UNCLOS explicitly provides for the ‘duty to render assistance,'” he said.
The country’s top diplomat highlighted that the same duty is found in the International Maritime Organization’s International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, as amended, and the IMO Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue.
“It is the obligation of every member state of the UN and of the IMO to pay, not just lip service to these conventions but to observe them in real life-and-death situations,” he said.
Locsin said the rescue of persons in distress is a universally recognized obligation of people and governments as he described the abandoning of people in distress as a “felony”.
“While no sanction is available in international law, it should be a cause of some concern,” he said.
The incident involving Filipino fishing boat Gem-Vir1 and a Chinese fishing vessel occurred at an area within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. The collision resulted in the sinking of the Gem-Vir1 and left the Filipino crew floating on water for several hours. (By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora)