Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has said the Chinese government will have to pay P12 million the 22 fishermen and owner of M/V Gem-Ver rammed by a Chinese fishing vessel off Recto Bank on June 9 last year.
Citing a report submitted by the prosecutors in Occidental Mindoro, Guevarra said it was assessed that the losses and damages sustained by the 22 fishermen as well as the owner of the wooden fishing boat M/V Gem-Ver would amount to about P12 million.
According to him, the amount of compensation was based on the testimonies given by the fishermen.
“From their report, the total estimated civil damages amount to something like P12 million plus for the repair of the fishing boat, for lost income and wages for a period of six months. The owner of the vessel also asked for moral damages,” Guevarra said.
Guevarra revealed they had submitted the estimated amount of compensation to the Department of Foreign Affairs that earlier sought the Department of Justice’s assistance to assess the compensation that the Chinese government should give to the fishermen and the boat owner, reportedly owned and operated by Arlinda dela Torre of San Roque, San Jose, Occidental Mindoro.
“We have submitted this estimate to the DFA. We’re expecting they will forward this to the Chinese government. We’re just waiting for the reaction of the Chinese government,” Guevarra said, in an interview with CNN Philippines.
On June 9, 2019, the 22 Filipino fishermen from Occidental Mindoro were asleep on board the fishing boat F/V Gem-Ver off Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), when their boat was rammed by a Chinese fishing boat that caused the boat to sink.
They were rescued by a passing Vietnamese fishing boat hours later.
The Chinese fishing vessel was identified as Yuemaobinyu 42212, owned by Liang Jin and from Guangdong Province.
The owner of F/V Gem-Ver received donations and was able to repair the boat and was able to sail again last November. However, it was damaged once again because of Typhoon “Ursula” in December of last year.
Meanwhile, the Chinese Embassy in Manila said Thursday Beijing remained committed to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea as well as for the adoption of a Code of Conduct to lessen tension in the disputed waterways, but denounced interference of a certain country outside of the region.
The Chinese Embassy made the statement after Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. called for a resumption of talks on the COC which has been hampered by the restriction on travel and face to face negotiation imposed to curb the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus.
Locsin made the call during last week’s virtual ASEAN ministerial meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
Locsin stressed it was important to push through with the talks on the COC to demonstrate to the world that ASEAN and China are committed and determined to have a conclusive result on the issue that has evaded resolution for years.
The embassy said the Chinese government shared the sentiments of Locsin because it is in the common interest of Beijing and ASEAN to have peace and stability in the South China Sea.
China stressed that even without the COC, China and ASEAN had maintained overall stability in the disputed waters through a “dual track approach” wherein they managed their territorial and maritime disputes while carrying out dialogue on such issues through bilateral mechanisms.
“On the other hand, China and ASEAN countries are committed to the full and effective implementation of the Declaration of Conducts of Parties and to advancing consultations of the Code of Conduct. On the COC consultations China is sincere in its attitude and firm in resolve,” the embassy statement said.
It was in 2018 that Chinese Premier Li Keqiang first proposed to conclude the COC consultations within three years or by 2021, which the embassy added, the ASEAN agreed, the embassy added.
“We are happy to see that good headway has been made with the completion of the first reading of the Single Draft COC Negotiating Text and the commencement of the second reading this year,” the embassy said.
However, aside from the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic which slows down the process of consultation, Beijing said a “certain country outside the region is bent on interfering in the disputes in the South China Sea and the COC consultations to serve its own geopolitical agenda.”
“How to resist the interference is crucial for pushing forward the future consultations of the COC,” it said.
While the statement did not identify the particular country, China was obviously referring to the United States, which recently condemned its aggressive activities in the South China Sea, including the reclamation and construction of artificial islands complete with military facilities.
A legally binding COC is expected to ease tension in the disputed waters while enhancing confidence building measures among claimant countries.
Beijing claims almost the entire South China Sea through which more than $5 trillion worth of goods passes every year.
Besides China, the other claimant countries include the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Butuan.
In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration junked Beijing’s massive claims in the area and sided with Manila but the former refused to abide by the ruling.
Beijing insisted on bilateral talks to address the dispute.