Chinese fishers’ group incorrectly claims Recto Bank is part of Spratly Islands



MANILA, Philippines — A Chinese fisheries association had apologized for the allision between a Chinese vessel and a Philippine fishing boat near Recto or Reed Bank in the West Philippine Sea in June.

Chen Shiqin, president of the Guangdong Fishery Mutual Insurance Association, sent the apology letter to the Philippine Embassy in Beijing. The letter was later released by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The Chinese group, however, incorrectly claimed Recto or Reed Bank as part of Nansha Island Group or the Spratly Islands.

“An accidental collision between a Chinese and a Philippine fishing boat in the waters of Reed Bank, Nansha Island Group on the evening of 9 June, caused damage to a Philippine fishing boat,” Chen said in the letter.

Recto Bank is part of Philippine EEZ
Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, part of the Philippine delegation in the arbitration against China before a United Nations-backed tribunal, clarified that Recto Bank is not a part of the Spratly Islands.

“Only China claims Reed Bank is part of the Spratly Islands (Nansha to China),” Carpio said in a statement.

“The arbitral tribunal ruled that Reed Bank is a completely submerged area, forming part of Philippine EEZ, beyond the territorial sea of any island in the Spratlys,” the senior magistrate said.

In its submission before the arbitral tribunal, the Philippines argued that Recto Bank, part of the continental shelf of Palawan, is neither an island nor a rock nor a low tide elevation.

Recto Bank is about 85 nautical miles from the nearest coast of Palawan while it is about 595 nautical miles from the coast of Hainan, China’s southermost province. The area forms part of the Philippines’ 200 nautical-mile continental shelf under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

In its July 2016 ruling, the Permanent Court of Arbitration concluded that the Philippines exercises exclusive sovereign rights over Reed Bank under the UNCLOS.

Being an undisputed area, Recto or Reed Bank is being considered as one of the sites for the proposed joint oil and gas exploration between the Philippines and China.

A map of the South China Sea shows that Reed or Recto Bank, which is part of the continental shelf of Palawan, is not part of Spratly Islands, which China calls Nansha Islands. Permanent Court of Arbitration
In the apology letter sent through the Philippine Embassy, the Guangdong-based fishery group conveyed the apology of the owner of the ship that rammed fishing boat GemVer1 to the 22 Filipino fishermen.

The Filipino crew members claimed that the offending vessel left the vicinity after the collision, leaving them floating with their sinking boat for hours until a Vietnamese fishing vessel rescued them.

The Chinese group said the incident was “an unintentional mistake of the Chinese fishermen” and that the offending vessel must take major responsibility for the allision.

“Our association will urge the shipowner of the fishing boat involved to actively coordinate with the Philippine side to expedite the latter’s claim for compensation according to the procedures for insurance claim,” Chen said.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Locsin: Noted
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., meanwhile, clarified that he merely “noted” the Chinese apology. This could be seen in the lower part of the memo issued by the DFA where Locsin wrote “Noted!” and affixed his signature.

“I did not accept it. I am not a fisherman. (Presidential spokesperson Salvador) Panelo merely expressed satisfaction with the Chinese apology for the incident and the offer of compensation and nothing more,” Locsin tweeted on July 28 in comments addressed to unnamed people he referred to as morons.

In the same tweet, Locsin said that presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo “merely expressed satisfaction with the Chinese apology for the incident and the offer of compensation and nothing more.”

State-run Philippine News Agency reported Wednesday that the Palace both accepted and welcomed the apology.

“We accept the recent apology extended by the owner of the Chinese vessel to our fishermen affected by the incident,” Panelo said in the PNA report and in a statement to media.

“We likewise welcome the owner’s humility to take responsibility and acknowledgment that compensation must be provided to cover the actual loss,” Panelo also said.