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

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.”

Missing Seoul mayor’s body found after massive search

Updated 09 July 2020

Missing Seoul mayor’s body found after massive search

  • Police said they were looking for Won-soon wooded hills stretching across northern Seoul where his cellphone signal was last detected

SEOUL: Police say the body of the missing mayor of South Korea’s capital, Seoul, has been found. They say Park Won-soon’s body was located in hills in northern Seoul early Friday, more than seven hours after they launched a massive search for him. Park’s daughter had called police on Thursday afternoon to report him missing, saying he had given her a “will-like” message before leaving home. News reports say one of Park’s secretaries had lodged a complaint with police on Wednesday night over alleged sexual harassment.
Police said they were looking for Won-soon in wooded hills stretching across northern Seoul where his cellphone signal was last detected. They said the phone was currently turned off.
The daughter didn’t explain the contents of the message, said an officer at the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency who was responsible for the search operation.
His daughter said she decided to call police because she couldn’t reach her father on the phone, the officer said, requesting anonymity because she was not authorized to speak to the media about the matter.
Kim Ji-hyeong, a Seoul Metropolitan Government official, said Park did not come to work on Thursday for unspecified reasons and had canceled all of his schedule, including a meeting with a presidential official at his Seoul City Hall office.
The reason for Park’s disappearance wasn’t clear. The Seoul-based SBS television network reported that one of Park’s secretaries had lodged a complaint with police on Wednesday night over alleged sexual harassment such as unwanted physical contact that began in 2017. The SBS report, which didn’t cite any source, said the secretary told police investigators that an unspecified number of other female employees at Seoul City Hall had suffered similar sexual harassment by Park.
MBC television carried a similar report.
Both the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency and Park’s office said they couldn’t confirm the reports.
Police officer Lee Byeong-seok told reporters that Park was last identified by a security camera at 10:53 a.m. at the entrance to the hills, more than six hours before his daughter called police to report him missing.
About 600 police and fire officers using drones searched unsuccessfully for hours Thursday evening. Fire officer Jeong Jin-hyang said rescuers were using dogs to search dangerous areas on the hills, and helicopters would be deployed Friday morning if Park were not found overnight.
Park, 64, a longtime civic activist and human rights lawyer, was elected Seoul mayor in 2011. He became the city’s first mayor to be voted into a third term in June last year. A member of President Moon Jae-in’s liberal Democratic Party, he has been considered a potential presidential candidate in 2022 elections.
Park has mostly maintained his activist colors as mayor, criticizing what he described as the country’s growing social and economic inequalities and corrupt ties between large businesses and politicians.
As a lawyer, he was credited for winning the country’s first sexual harassment conviction. He has also been an outspoken critic of Japan’s colonial-era policies toward Korea, including the mobilization of Korean and other women as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers.
Park also established himself as a fierce opponent of former conservative President Park Geun-hye and openly supported the millions of people who flooded the city’s streets in late 2016 and 2017, calling for her ouster over a corruption scandal.
Park Geun-hye, a daughter of late authoritarian leader Park Chung-hee, was formally removed from office in March 2017 and is currently serving a decades-long prison term on bribery and other charges.
Seoul, a city of 10 million people, has been a new center of the coronavirus outbreak in South Korea since the country eased its rigid social distancing rules in early May. Authorities are struggling to trace contacts amid surges in cases linked to nightclubs, church services, a huge e-commerce warehouse and door-to-door sellers in Seoul.
Park Won-soon has led an aggressive anti-virus campaign, shutting down thousands of nightspots and banning rallies in major downtown streets.