In this photo borrowed from the FB account of San Jose town Vice Mayor Rod Agas (in checkered polo shirt), the 22 Filipino fishermen are shown wearing Navy t-shirts after their rescue from Reed Bank in the West Philippine Sea. They were taken home to Occidental Mindoro by BRP Tausug on June 14, 2019. (Photo courtesy of San Jose, Occidental Mindoro Vice Mayor Rod Agas)

Supreme Court (SC) senior associate justice Antonio Carpio has urged the Philippines to take a strong stand against China’s “latest aggressive act” and demand compensation for the sinking of a Filipino fishing boat in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) by its Chinese maritime militia (CMM) vessel.

In a statement issued Friday, Carpio said compensation should be given to the owner of F/B Gem-Vir 1 and the 22 Filipino fishermen, while punishment should be meted to the captain and the crew of the CMM vessel that was responsible in the incident.

“The Filipino people must demand from China compensation for the owner of F/B Gem-Vir 1, and punishment for the captain and crew of the Chinese vessel that rammed in hit-and-run fashion F/B Gem-Vir 1,” Carpio said.

He said a strong signal must be sent by the Filipino people to China that “any new “gray zone” offensive of ramming Filipino fishing vessels in the West Philippine Sea will mean a break in diplomatic ties”.

Carpio added the sinking of F/B Gem-Vir 1 is a “quantum escalation” of China’s belligerent acts against the Philippines which may signal the start of driving away Filipino fishing vessels in the WPS in the same way the Vietnamese are also being driven away out of Paracels.

“China’s maritime militia vessels have been ramming Vietnamese vessels in the Paracels for several years now. This is the first time that a Chinese maritime militia vessel has rammed a Filipino fishing vessel. Previously, Chinese maritime militia vessels just loitered in the territorial sea of Pag-asa Island and other Philippine-occupied geologic features in
the Spratlys, intimidating the Filipino occupants of these features,” he said in the statement.

He said the CMM have reinforced steel hulls “purposely for ramming fishing vessels of other coastal states.

Carpio added no other coastal state has fishing vessels that are designed for ramming others except China.

“Captains of ordinary Chinese fishing vessels do not engage in ramming for fear of inflicting damage to their own vessels. It is, thus, highly likely that a Chinese maritime militia vessel rammed the Filipino fishing vessel F/B Gem-Vir 1,” he said.
He said further that CMMs are trained, equipped and organized by the Navy of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and are under its chain of command while at sea, equipped with satellite radios and can communicate anytime with their commanders.

The Filipino fishing boat, he said, was rammed while anchored and its crewmen were fishing in Reed Bank which is within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the WPS.

Carpio said its ramming is a clear violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the treaty outlines the rights and responsibilities of nations with respect to the use of the world’s oceans.

“In the arbitration at The Hague, the tribunal ruled that the failure of China to prevent its fishing vessels, even those privately owned, from fishing within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone in the West Philippine Sea was a violation of UNCLOS. Here, the Chinese maritime militia vessel, under the command of the PLA, prevented the crew of F/B Gem-Vir 1 from exercising their sovereign right to fish in the exclusive fishing ground of Filipino fishermen,” he pointed out.

Junel Insigne, skipper of F/B Gem-Vir 1, said he is sure they were rammed by a Chinese vessel.

In Carpio’s statement, he said Insigne who is familiar with fishing vessels in the WPS stated that their boat’s lights were on and the Chinese fishing vessel was also lighted.

He said they were on their way home to Occidental Mindoro when the Chinese vessel rammed them on June 9 around midnight in Recto Bank.

After their boat sank, the Chinese vessel returned and even flashed its lights at them to ensure their boat had submerged before it left.

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