Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has accused the Duterte administration of intending to whitewash the investigation into the ramming incident involving a Filipino vessel in the Reed Bank when it agreed for a joint investigation with China.
De Lima called the joint Philippine-China investigation as an “outright abandonment” of the country’s jurisdiction over the crimes committed by the Chinese vessel in the South China Sea (SCS), locally referred to as West Philippine Sea (WPS).
“After the Duterte administration’s orchestrated response to downplay the incident and to silence the crew of FB Gem Ver 1, this joint investigation is simply the logical step to a whitewash,” she said in recent Dispatch from Crame No. 543.
“‘Mutually recognized results’ supposed to be arrived at in the joint probe means a ‘lutong macao’ to be cooked up by both the Duterte administration and China,” she added.
De Lima, a former justice secretary, joined her Senate colleagues in rejecting the Duterte administration’s plan for a joint Philippines-China investigation to resolve the issues surrounding the Recto Bank (Reed Bank) incident.
Among the senators who recently expressed strong opposition to a joint Philippines-China probe include Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon, Senators Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, Risa Hontiveros, Panfilo Lacson, and Antonio Trillanes IV.
Last June 22, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo announced Mr. Duterte’s approval for a joint probe with China into the Recto Bank incident, notably just two days after China suggested a joint investigation.
Mr. Duterte himself called the sinking of Filipino boat by a Chinese vessel in Recto bank as a “little maritime incident,” with him later ordering the Philippine Navy not to sail out at the supposed risk of a nuclear attack from China.
According to the lady Senator from Bicol, the joint bilateral investigation will result to “an outright abandonment” of the country’s jurisdiction over the crimes committed by the Chinese vessel during the incident.
“Recto Bank is within our EEZ and thus within the ambit of the Philippine Fisheries Code. A joint investigation is also an abandonment of our sovereignty because it amounts to a refusal to exercise our exclusive authority over our fisheries resources in Recto Bank,” she pointed out.
De Lima has recently expressed support for the passage into law of United States Senate Bill No. 1634, seeking to impose sanctions on China for illegal and dangerous activities in the West Philippine Sea.
On her part, De Lima earlier filed Senate Resolution No. 744 proposing for the immediate convening of the National Security Council to determine decisive courses of action on China’s militarization over the WPS. She also filed Senate Bill No. 2201 declaring July 12 of every year as a “West Philippine Sea Victory Day” in meaningful observance of the country’s arbitration victory against China over the WPS.