Philippines threatens to cut ties with China over boat sinking

Activists hold placards with anti-China slogans during a protest in front of the Chinese consulate in Manila on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 14 June 2019
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Philippines threatens to cut ties with China over boat sinking

  • Anger grows over ‘cowardly action’ that left 22 seamen fearing for their lives
  • Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. said he has already filed a diplomatic protest over the incident.

MANILA, Philippines: The Philippines is prepared to cut diplomatic ties with China if it is shown that the sinking of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese vessel in the disputed South China Sea was intentional, a Malacanang spokesperson said on Thursday.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. said he has already filed a diplomatic protest over the incident.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Wednesday said a Chinese vessel is believed to have collided with the Filipino fishing boat near Recto Bank around midnight on Sunday, June 9. The Filipino vessel, the FB Gimver1, was reportedly anchored at the time of the incident. 

The Philippine government strongly condemned “the cowardly action of the Chinese fishing vessel and its crew” for abandoning 22 Filipino fishermen as their boat sank.

The fishermen were rescued six hours laters by a Vietnamese fishing vessel that brought them to safety with help from the Philippines Armed Forces’ (AFP) Western Command (Wescom).

President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesperson, Salvador Panelo, said that if the sinking was intentional, “it’s an act of aggression.”

“We will cut off diplomatic relations if there are aggressive acts. First, we will file a diplomatic protest. If we are not content with their explanation, (and) we find out that it was intentional, that will be another story,” Panelo said.

“We will not allow ourselves to be assaulted, bullied or to be the subject of such barbaric, uncivilized and outrageous actions from any source.” He said Malacanang had called on the Chinese government to investigate the collision.

“We don’t exactly know what ship was involved. We want to find out first,” he said.

The government will also wait for China’s response to the diplomatic protest.

Panelo said there was no need for the Philippine government to summon the Chinese ambassador to explain the incident.

“If he’s listening now, he should explain,” he said.

According to the spokesperson, Duterte was “outraged” by the incident.

“Whether the collision was accidental or intentional, common decency and the dictates of humanity require the immediate saving of the crew of the Philippine vessel,” said Panelo.

He said the territorial dispute between the countries should not be “an impediment for the offending vessel to lend a hand to the distressed crew.” 

“The captain and the crew of the Chinese vessel should not have left the injured party without any assistance or succor. Such act of desertion is as inhuman as it is barbaric. It is clear violation of maritime protocols as well as an infringement of internationally accepted practice of assisting a vessel in distress,” said Panelo.

Philippine Navy (PN) Flag Officer-in-Command, Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad, said that regardless of who is at fault in a collision at sea, vessels that sustained minimal or no damage are obligated to rescue seamen whose lives are under threat.

He said this rule is mandated by the “seafarer’s conscience” and is recognized under international maritime law.

Meanwhile, an expert on maritime accident investigation, has urged caution until more is known about the collision.

“At this moment there is no smoking gun that the offending vessel was Chinese. I advise caution, given the obvious tension. Such incidents usually have fault on both sides,” Bob Couttie told Arab News.

“I doubt the deliberate ramming of an unidentified vessel at the risk of severe damage to one’s own in the dead of night. I would look at watch-keeping practices on both vessels, if possible,” he said.

“Poor watch-keeping is the most common cause of such incidents.”


‘They have crushed our voices’, Kashmiris on not being allowed to pray

Updated 13 min 53 sec ago
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‘They have crushed our voices’, Kashmiris on not being allowed to pray

  • More than 3,000 people have been arrested from different parts of the valley, media reports
  • Most of the big mosques have been shutdown to avoid people amassing for a large congregation

SRINAGAR, Kashmir: A strange silence engulfs Kashmir valley three weeks after the abrogation of the Article 370 that ensured a special autonomous status for Jammu and Kashmir in the Indian union.
This is the silence enforced by the fear of the gun after arrests of a large number of politicians, activists, lawyers, businessmen, and commoners.
“I have been summoned at least four times by the Indian troops and harassed, barring me from offering my prayers. I requested them, explaining that no one indulges in agitation in this area...” Hafiz Altaf Ahmed Shah, an imam at the local mosque told Arab News.
Media reports suggest that more than 3,000 people have been arrested from different parts of the valley and put in special detention centers in the semi-autonomous state or outside.
For those spared or lucky to avoid arrest, a lurking danger looms if they resist – be it a cleric or a professor, male or female, exercising restraint is the only option left.
In Srinagar and outside, most of the big mosques have been shutdown to avoid people amassing for a large congregation – a potential recipe for resistance.
“Our three story mosque is usually at full capacity but today, only 10 to 12 people offered Friday prayers because of the curfew,” Shah said.
Small and medium-sized mosques are under constant vigil. The clerics of these mosques have been ordered to lie low and not lead prayers in their mosques.
“We are being subjected to injustice by the Indian government and the world is aware. But no one is speaking on these issues. They have shut down our communication. They have silenced and crushed our voices,” Shah said.
Watch this exclusive video by Arab News to get a sense of what’s happening in the area.