Vietnam fulfilled legal duty at sea by rescuing Filipino fishermen: spokeswoman

By Phan Anh, Khanh LynhJune 20, 2019 | 06:00 am PT
Vietnam fulfilled legal duty at sea by rescuing Filipino fishermen: spokeswoman
Crew members of Filipino fishing boat Gemvir-1 which was rammed by a Chinese vessel and sank near the Spratly Islands on June 9, 2019 are aboard a Philippine Navy ship. Photo by ABS-CBN News/Jeff Canoy.
Vietnam says its rescue of 22 Filipino fishermen in the South China Sea was in accordance with international laws.

Le Thi Thu Hang, spokeswoman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told the press on Thursday: "Vietnam believes that ships, including fishing vessels, have the responsibility to humanely treat and support fishermen in distress at sea in accordance with international laws, especially the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the tenets of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

"The Vietnamese fishing vessel has performed its international duty at sea as per UNCLOS provisions and that of the IMO, of which Vietnam is a member."

Hang was referring to the world headlines grabbing incident where a Vietnamese fishing vessel rescued 22 Filipino fishermen on June 10. The Filipino crew said their vessel was rammed and sunk by a Chinese vessel near the Reed Bank in Vietnam’s Spratly (Truong Sa) Archipelago the previous night.

After ramming the anchored Filipino vessel, the Chinese vessel reportedly abandoned the Filipino crew and left the scene. A Vietnamese vessel from the Mekong Delta's Tien Giang Province rescued the Filipinos and handed them over to their navy.

Ngo Van Thang, whose family owns the Vietnamese ship that saved the Filipinos, also said they were just performing their duty at sea, saving people and animals in case of accidents. "We are just happy that we could bring them to safety," Thang told VnExpress International.

Filipino media reports quoted their fishermen as confirming that a Chinese vessel rammed their ship and left them at sea.

The Chinese embassy in Manila confirmed that a Chinese vessel did ram the Gemvir-1 and sink it, but said it was an accident that happened as the Chinese vessel was "getting away" from about six or seven other Filipino vessels.

Speaking at the 29th Meeting of States Parties to the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea Monday, Filipino Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin Jr thanked Vietnam for rescuing the Filipino fishermen, saying that "We are eternally in debt to our strategic partner, Vietnam, for this act of mercy and decency."

China said Tuesday that it would investigate the matter and cooperate with the Philippines to find the truth.

Last March, a Chinese vessel also rammed and sank a Vietnamese fishing boat from the central province of Quang Ngai while it was fishing in the Da Loi (Discovery) Reef off Vietnam's Paracel Archipelago, according to the National Committee for Incident, Natural Disaster Response and Search and Rescue.

Following the incident, Vietnam's Ministry of Foreign Affairs handed over a diplomatic note to representatives from the Chinese embassy in Hanoi to protest the Chinese vessel’s action and demanded compensation for the fishermen.

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