Statement of the Vice President on the Boat Ramming Incident in the West Philippine Sea

With the rest of the Filipino nation, I express my deepest outrage at the incident that occurred last June 9, 2019, where a Philippine fishing vessel, while at anchor, was rammed, apparently intentionally, by a Chinese ship near Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea. After the collision, 22 of our fellow Filipinos were left floundering in the sea, abandoned by the crew of the Chinese ship. They survived their ordeal only through the fortuitous arrival of a friendly Vietnamese ship, which rescued them after they were abandoned at sea. We will be forever grateful to the Vietnamese crew, whose timely arrival saved our Filipino fishermen from almost certain death.

We condemn in the strongest possible terms the irresponsible actions of the Chinese crew involved in the incident, and express our most profound disappointment at the refusal of the Chinese government to acknowledge the culpability of those responsible for sinking the Philippine fishing vessel and abandoning its crew. Those involved must be made accountable in accordance with the pertinent international treaties and Philippine laws.

While we acknowledge the statement of the Chinese ambassador that their government will investigate the incident, we should ask: If the Chinese government has already presented their own version of the events and will not even accept that a wrong was committed, how can we expect it to mete justice on those responsible?

We strongly urge the Department of Foreign Affairs to demand from the Chinese government to find those responsible and recognize Philippine jurisdiction, so they can face trial before our courts. Justice for the 22 Filipino fishermen requires that our courts assume jurisdiction.

We have been warning and worrying about an incident like this since the administration adopted a less assertive policy in enforcing our rights, upheld by the favorable ruling from the UN Arbitral Tribunal, in the West Philippine Sea. Its failure to consistently contest Chinese encroachment in our waters was inevitably going to result in less and less respect of our laws and sovereignty from China—and to the direct harm of our people. As our own history has repeatedly taught us, abuse, left unchallenged, will only encourage further abuse, giving rise to impunity.

It is still not too late. Now is the time for a shift in policy, from being passive to being more courageous in asserting our rights. From bowing our heads in subservience, to holding our heads up high as a free and independent people. This is the time where our patriotism, Filipino pride, and love of country should come to the fore. This is the time where we expect our leaders to be true to their oath and speak, act, and do what is needed to defend the dignity of our nation, and every Filipino.