Senators point out ‘sovereignty issue’ in PH-China joint probe on Recto Bank incident

Robie de Guzman   •   June 24, 2019   •   994

(L-R) Crewmen of the sunken fishing vessel, F/B GEN-VER 1 reunited with their families; wreckage of F/B GEN-VER 1 after getting hit by a Chinese vessel at Recto Bank on June 9, 2019.

MANILA, Philippines – Several Senators have questioned the planned joint investigation of the Philippines and China into the boat-ramming incident near Recto Bank (also called Reed Bank).

In separate statements, Senators Franklin Drilon and Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan both opposed the move, saying this is a clear violation of international treaties and will prejudice the country’s territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Drilon said the Philippines should not allow a joint probe with China because the law is on Manila’s side. He added that a joint investigation will only serve Beijing’s interests.

“Not only the credibility issue, you have a lot of legal complications and sovereignty issues,” he stressed.

Drilon also pointed out that the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 ruled that China cannot claim Recto Bank as this is part of the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Pangilinan echoed Drilon’s sentiments, emphasizing that the joint probe is against the country’s fisheries code, which mandates the government to ensure the safety of our fishery and aquatic resources and prosecute local and foreign violators.

“A joint investigation is against our fisheries code. Our fisheries code mandates the government to safeguard the safety of our fishery and aquatic resources and to prosecute local and foreign violators. Part also of the government’s mandate is to address foreign illegal entrants in our waters,” he said in a statement released on Sunday (June 23).

Senator Panfilo Lacson also believes that conducting a joint probe with China into the allision incident in Recto Bank may be seen as a waiver of the Philippines’ ownership rights over the area.

READ: Lacson says PH-China joint probe may be seen as waiver of Recto Bank ownership

“The 2016 Hague ruling expressly states that Recto Bank is part of the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and therefore cannot be claimed by China. Having said that, allowing a joint investigation with China and a third party may be interpreted as a waiver of our right of ownership of Recto Bank,” Lacson said in a statement issued on Sunday.

Senator Joel Villanueva, meanwhile, thinks there is no need for a joint probe since Manila has already filed a diplomatic protest against China over the issue.

“I still don’t think there’s a need for a joint probe. We already filed a protest before the UN IMO and other international forum. There are two cases here,” he said.

“The enforcement of the Philippine-China arbitration award should have been an immediate priority of the National Security Council especially after the incident,” he added.

In the end, Drilon suggested for President Duterte to form an independent body to look into the incident like the Melo and Feliciano commissions created by past administrations.

Drilon said the investigating body should be given authority to make recommendations, inquire into the Recto Bank incident and submit a report the President and Congress.

“This body, I would propose, should be composed of men of independence, integrity, a retired supreme court justice is preferable by having this we are able to resolve this issue with credibility,” he said.

The lawmakers’ statements come after the chief executive welcomed the Chinese government’s offer for a joint probe into the ramming of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese vessel in the West Philippine Sea, adding that it should be done with a third neutral party. (with details from Nel Maribojoc)

Yulo, Petecio other athletes to meet with Duterte

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 15, 2019

(L-R) Pole vaulter John Ernest Obiena, boxer Eumir Marcial, gymnast Carlos Yulo and boxer Nesthy Petecio

Filipino athletes including gymnast Carlos Yulo and boxer Nesthy Petecio will meet President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday (October 16), according to Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.

“They will be meeting with the President. They will have a courtesy call,” Panelo said during the press briefing on Tuesday (October 15).

Yulo has won the gold medal in the 41st FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championship while Petecio clinched the gold in the Women’s World Boxing Championship featherweight division.

John Ernest Obiena, the first Filipino to qualify in the 2020 Olympics, will also meet the president. Boxer Eumir Marcial will also join the three athletes in the courtesy call on Wednesday.—AAC

Duterte to review nuclear energy deal with Russian firm

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 14, 2019

President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered a review of the nuclear energy agreement with a Russian firm, according to Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.

In a statement after the 42nd Cabinet Meeting in Malacañang Friday (October 11) evening, Panelo said the president wants to study the proposal first.

Duterte had previously expressed his sentiment after arriving from Moscow on October 6.

“The Constitution does not (allow it). It is prohibited. That is why I have to talk to the Cabinet,” Duterte said. “The hard-line would come after I have consulted with everybody concerned, including people of the industry affected.”

According to Panelo, Department of Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi has clarified that the memorandum signed by the president during his state visit in Russia was only a framework for discussion.

READ: Gatchalian on nuke energy deals: Take extra precautionary measures

“The DOE reiterated that the Memorandum of Intent signed last October 4, 2019, was a framework for discussion and not for a particular construction of a small modular reactor (SMR). The President wanted to study first the proposal,” he said.

Panelo added that Cusi and DOE Assistant Secretary Gerardo Erguiza discussed the proposed nuclear energy deal with a company in Russia.

READ: Duterte returns from Russia with P620M worth of business deals

During his state visit in Russia, Duterte has signed a memorandum of intent with Russia on the exploration of possible cooperation in the construction of nuclear power plants.—AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Gatchalian on nuke energy deals: Take extra precautionary measures

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 8, 2019

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian has advised taking extra precautionary measures in entering into nuclear power deals, in relation to the signed nuclear power agreement between the Philippines and Russia.

On Monday (October 7), Gatchalian expressed concern over the said deal since the Constitution does not have enough laws that promote nuclear power in the country.

“Kailangan ng maraming batas, for example nuclear safety. Kailangan din ng batas paano i-transport itong mga nuclear waste, saan itatago iyong nuclear waste. So, we have to be very cautious in moving forward, kulang pa tayo sa framework,” he said.

(We need a lot of laws, for example, on nuclear safety. A law is also needed in transporting nuclear waste and where will the nuclear waste be kept. So, we have to be very cautious in moving forward, we still lack framework.)

The senator also said there is a huge risk in investing in nuclear power plants especially during disasters.

However, Gatchalian said he is still open to studying the use of nuclear power plants in the country.

“Iyong technology for power nagiging mas mura, magiging mas advanced, so pwede natin pag-aralan. But for now ang importante mayroon tayong mga safeguards, batas, nag mag-reregulate nitong nuclear power,” he said.

(The technology for power will be cheaper and affordable. It will also be more advanced, so we should study it. But for now, what’s important is having safeguards, and laws that will regulate nuclear power.)

He also clarified that nuclear energy is allowed in the Constitution but not nuclear weapons.—AAC

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