Coast Guard-Marina report: China vessel 'failed' to take action to avoid Recto Bank collision

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 6) — The Chinese vessel that hit a Philippine fishing vessel last month in Reed Bank could have, but failed to, take action to avoid the risk of the collision, according to the joint investigation report of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina).

The PCG-Marina report was dated June 20, and was submitted to authorities as a part of the Casualty Investigation Code. It is meant to prevent further similar incidents, and not to determine liability.

CNN Philippines received a copy of the 13-page document ‪Saturday night‬.

"The 'Unidentified Chinese Fishing Vessel' was found to have failed to take appropriate action to avoid the risk of collision and to render assistance to a vessel in distress," one of the report's conclusions read.

It classified the event as a Very Serious Marine Casualty (VSMC) based on the Code of the International Standards and Recommended Practices for Safety Investigation into a Marine Casualty or Marine Incident, because of the total loss of the Philippine Boat FBca GEM-VER.

The incident happened within the Philippines' Exclusive Economic Zone, 140 nautical miles northwest of Piedras Point, Palawan.

READ: Filipino boat sinks after it was hit by Chinese vessel in West Philippine Sea

GEM-VER was not without fault, as it failed to have a proper lookout, did not employ a licensed Chief Engine Officer, had more people onboard than the authorized capacity, and had expired papers from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, the report said.

The crew of GEM-VER were also not licensed by Marina.

According to Part VII, Article 98 (1c) of the United Nation Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 82, ships are required to render assistance after a collision.

The report said that the unknown Chinese vessel did not comply with the above regulation since it failed to extend its assistance after it rammed into GEM-VER, causing the boat to be half submerged.

China, in a statement released by its embassy on June 14, said that the captain of its vessel did not rescue the GEM-VER for fear of being besieged, having just recently escaped a “siege” from other Filipino boats.

READ: China gives a different version of the June 9 incident between PH, Chinese vessels in Reed Bank

Moving forward, Marina and PCG plan to hold more public awareness programs to fishing vessel owners, operators and crew on international rules and regulations.

The agencies recommended that a policy defining the area of operation and safety standards for fishing vessels be crafted.

PCG and Marina plan to cooperate with the Department of Science and Technology to develop navigational equipment such as automatic identification systems and voyage data recorders that would be affordable for local fishing vessels.

Two senators have also made recommendations based on the report.

"[This] fortifies my original suggestion of strengthening the PH Coast Guard not only for safety and monitoring our seas but also to be able to strictly implement the laws, rules and regulations at seas," said Senator Vicente "Tito" Sotto III in a statement.

Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III, in a separate statement, said that Vietnamese fishermen who rescued the GEM-VER crew should be thanked.

"Saving lives, when able, is the directive of international law. We should officially give thanks to our Vietnamese friends for their selfless act of helping our distressed countrymen," Pimentel said.