Carpio corrects China ship owner's apology: Recto Bank not part of Spratlys

MANILA, Philippines – Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio corrected an error in the apology letter of the owner of the Chinese ship involved in the sinking of a Philippine fishing boat in Recto Bank (Reed Bank).

In a statement on Wednesday, August 28, Carpio – one of the Philippines' staunchest defenders of the West Philippine Sea – said Recto Bank is not part of the Spratly Islands.

Carpio was responding to a portion of the Chinese ship owner's apology which states that "an accidental collision between a Chinese and 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."

The Chinese use the name Nansha Islands to refer to the Spratly Islands.

"Only China claims Reed Bank is part of the Spratly Islands (Nansha to China). The arbitral tribunal ruled that Reed Bank is a completely submerged area, forming part of Philippine EEZ (exclusive economic zone), beyond the territorial sea of any island in the Spratlys," Carpio said.

The Chinese ship owner's apology came over two months since the vessel rammed, sunk, and abandoned Philippine fishing boat Gem-Ver in Recto Bank. Gem-Ver's 22 fishermen were left to the elements in the open sea for hours and were later saved by a Vietnamese fishing vessel. (READ: The sinking of Gem-Ver: Barko! May babanggang barko!)

It also came on the same day President Rodrigo Duterte was set to leave for an official visit to China, where he will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Days after news broke of Gem-Ver's sinking last June, Carpio had urged Filipinos to demand compensation from China.

In its apology to the Filipino fishermen, the Guangdong Fishery Mutual Insurance Association which the Chinese boat belongs to requested that the Philippines claim damages for losses related to the sinking of Gem-Ver.

Carpio earlier emphasized that the ramming of the Philippine fishing boat is a "clear violation" of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The SC justice pointed out that the Filipinos were fishing in Recto Bank, which is within the Philippines' EEZ in the West Philippine Sea. (READ: Recto Bank: Why China covets what belongs to the Philippines) – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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