Philippines rejects China’s call to jointly probe collision in South China Sea


MANILA – The Philippines on Friday (June 21) rejected China’s suggestions to jointly probe the sinking of a Philippine fishing boat by a Chinese trawler early this month.

“There will be no joint investigation. China and the Philippines will conduct their respective investigations,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin said in a tweet.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang, at a briefing on Thursday, proposed a joint probe to “exchange respective findings and properly handle the matter through friendly consultations”.

At midnight on June 9, steel-hulled trawler Yuemaobinyu 42212 from Guangdong province struck the stern of wooden outrigger fishing boat Gem-Vir, which had dropped anchor at Reed Bank, a vast but shallow seamount in disputed waters in the South China Sea.

The Gem-Vir sank. But the Chinese trawler, instead of rescuing the boat’s crew of 22 men, just sailed on.

A Vietnamese fishing boat later plucked the crew out of the water and handed them over to a Philippine navy ship.

President Rodrigo Duterte has played down the boat’s sinking as a “little maritime incident”.

That was how Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang described it last week: “an ordinary maritime traffic accident”.

Mr Duterte did not comment on testimonies by Gem-Vir’s crew that the Chinese trawler fled after sinking their boat. Instead, he said he would want to hear out what China’s investigators had to say first.

Former foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario said early Friday morning that a joint probe “is the worst news yet”.