Locsin stresses need to assist people in distress at sea during UN speech

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 18) — The country's top diplomat said it is "imperative" to come to the aid of people in distress at sea, as the government deals with the issue of last week's allision between a Filipino fishing boat and a Chinese vessel.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro "Teddy Boy" Locsin Jr. spoke at the United Nations in New York Sunday, during the commemoration of the 25th Anniversary of the entry into force of United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

In his speech, Locsin mentioned the incident between the two vessels, saying it happened "at an area within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines."

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He said the country was indebted to Vietnam for rescuing the 22 Filipino fishermen who were left at sea following the incident.

"The incident, to put it diplomatically, highlights the moral and possibly legal — though one wouldn’t bet on it — imperative of coming to the rescue of persons in distress at sea. Article 98 of UNCLOS explicitly provides for the 'duty to render assistance,'" he said.

Locsin said the duty of the head of a ship is three-fold:

- to render assistance to any person found at sea in danger of being lost;

- 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; and

- 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.

"It is the obligation of every member state of the UN and of the IMO ( International Maritime Organizatio) to pay, not just lip service to these conventions but to observe them in real life-and-death situations," said Locsin.

Locsin said it was a "felony" to leave anyone in distress, especially in circumstances when one is the cause of the distress, and moreso when it comes at no risk to give help.

'While no sanction is available in international law, it should be a cause of some concern," he added.

RELATED: Duterte wants China's side heard in Recto Bank 'maritime accident'

A Philippine fishing boat, FB Gem-Ver, sank after it was hit by a Chinese vessel at Recto Bank last week. Twenty two fishermen were rescued by a Vietnamese vessel and were brought back to Occidental Mindoro, where some of them recounted how they were abandoned by the Chinese crew after the allision.

Vice President Leni Robredo wants those responsible for a Chinese vessel's alleged ramming of a Filipino fishing boat near Recto Bank last June 9 to face Philippine courts.

President Rodrigo Duterte wants to wait for results of a full investigation from both the Philippine and Chinese camps before taking concrete action on the June 9 Reed Bank incident, his spokesman said Monday.