By Mario Casayuran
Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon urged on Thursday the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to file a diplomatic protest against China following the incident in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) where a Chinese vessel abandoned a sinking Philippine vessel and its crew last Sunday.
‘’I urge the DFA to file a diplomatic protest immediately. This incident demands strong and immediate action. We cannot let this incident pass. No self-respecting nation will allow that,” Drilon said.
He said the Philippine government and the Filipino people “should call out China for not honoring its obligations to rescue any person in distress at sea or in danger of being lost at sea” in accordance with international laws and treaties.
Drilon, a former justice secretary, explained that under Article 98 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), every state is required to render assistance to any person in distress or in danger of being lost at sea.
Under the UNCLOS, Drilon said that it is the duty of the state to oblige masters of vessels flying their flag to follow the provision; therefore, both State-owned vessels and private vessels flying the State’s flag are mandated to render assistance to people in distress at sea.
Drilon emphasized that the duty to rescue individuals applies without distinction and with no regard to the nationality and status of the person/s in need of rescue at sea.
The status or activity in which the individuals needing rescue are engaged in is irrelevant, he pointed out.
The minority leader said that failure to act on duty to rescue gives rise to state responsibility.
The only exception under the UNCLOS is that when it would endanger the rescuing vessel, he added.
Drilon said that such duty is so critical that it is even imposed during wartime.
He said that the action of the Chinese vessel is deplorable and could not be justified.
“What do you call a friend who abandons a friend in times of need?” Drilon asked.
Both China and the Philippines are signatories to the treaty.
Drilon, a former Senate President, said Article 98 (1) of UNCLOS states that: “Every State shall require the master of a ship flying its flag, in so far as he can do so without serious danger to the ship, the crew or the passengers: (a) to render assistance to any person found at sea in danger of being lost; (b) to proceed with all possible speed to the rescue of persons in distress, if informed of their need of assistance, in so far as such action may reasonably be expected of him; (c) after a collision, to render assistance to the other ship, its crew and its passengers and, where possible, to inform the other ship of the name of his own ship, its port of registry and the nearest port at which it will call.”