Marina, Coast Guard wrap up probe into Recto Bank incident

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine authorities have completed their investigation into the Recto Bank (Reed Bank) incident, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said on Saturday, June 22.

Tugade confirmed this in an interview with reporters on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Bangkok, Thailand.

"The Marina and PCG have completed the investigation. I can confirm that," he said.

The Maritime Industry Authority and the Philippine Coast Guard are both under the Department of Transportation.

Tugade said the results of the investigation were submitted to Malacañang on Thursday, June 20.

He declined to reveal and findings and recommendations of the two agencies. (READ: TIMELINE: Sinking of Filipino boat in West PH Sea by Chinese ship)

Malacañang was apparently already in receipt of the investigation results when President Rodrigo Duterte expressed openness to China's offer of a "joint probe" into the incident.

Malacañang announced that Duterte agreed to the joint investigation – with the participation of a "neutral third country" – on Saturday morning. Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said this investigation would be "to determine what really transpired in Recto Bank and find a satisfactory closure to this episode."

Former chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno had urged Filipinos to "reject" a tri-party investigation into the incident, calling it "an act of overt surrender of our sovereignty"  "the incident happened in Philippine waters, to Filipino citizens, whose laws immediately apply, and where jurisdiction, unless surrendered, vests exclusively in Philippine courts or appropriate administrative agencies "

Duterte and his officials had referred to the Philippine boat sinking by a Chinese vessel in Recto Bank as a "little maritime incident," mirroring the position taken by China.  

The incident involved the ramming, sinking, and abandonment of Philippine fishing boat Gem-Ver by a Chinese vessel in Recto Bank in the West Phliippine Sea. (READ: Bayanihan at sea: How fellow Filipinos helped rescue Gem-Ver and its crew)

Recto Bank, where the incident happened, is part of the Philippines' exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which means the Philippines has exclusive sovereign rights over the living and non-living resources in the area. The 2016 Hague ruling won by the Philippines expressly statesRecto Bank is within the country's EEZ and cannot be claimed by China. Rappler.com

 

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