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Failure to rescue people in distress, a cause of concern, DFA secretary

GMA News Online logo GMA News Online 6/18/2019 Parco, Bernadette
a group of people sitting at a table using a laptop computer: At commemoration of 25th Anniversary of entry into force of UNCLOS at UN New York, Sec Locsin stressed that “duty to render assistance” is in UNCLOS & in IMO Convention for Safety of Life at Sea & IMO Convention on Maritime Search & Rescue. PHOTO BY PHILIPPINE MISSION TO THE UNITED NATIONS © PHILIPPINE MISSION TO THE UNITED NATIONS At commemoration of 25th Anniversary of entry into force of UNCLOS at UN New York, Sec Locsin stressed that “duty to render assistance” is in UNCLOS & in IMO Convention for Safety of Life at Sea & IMO Convention on Maritime Search & Rescue. PHOTO BY PHILIPPINE MISSION TO THE UNITED NATIONS  

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin underscored that there may be no provision in international with regards to sanctions on the failure of crew members to extend assistance to people in distress, such inaction is "a cause of some concern."

In the Philippine Statement delivered at the 29th meeting of State Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on Monday (Manila time), Locsin narrated the incident on June 9, 2019 in which a Chinese vessel collided with a Filipino fishing boat.

He related that a Philippine fishing vessel anchored in Recto Bank in Palawan, in the West Philippine Sea, an area within the country's exclusive economic zone, sank after an incident with a Chinese vessel.

There were 22 Filipino fishermen left in the water after the incident and it were the personnel from a Vietnamese boat who took them to safety.

"The rescue of persons in distress is a universally recognized obligation of people and governments; and in the civil law and, maybe even in common law, it is a felony to abandon people in distress, especially when we cause that distress; and more so when it is no bother at all to save them at no risk to oneself," he said.

The UNCLOS, said Locsin, provides a comprehensive legal regime for the ocean and the seas and is adhered to "so that no one can thrive nor survive for long in anarchy."

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

In connection with this incident, Locsin cited Article 33 of UNCLOS on the "duty to render assistance."

"The same categorical imperative is found in the IMO International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea and the IMO convention on Maritime Search and Rescue to which we have appealed," he added.

Member-states of the UN and the IMO, Locsin pointed out, is obligated to observe the conventions in real life-and-death situations.

The duty of the master of a ship, as stated under the UNCLOS are:

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

2. 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

3. 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 ship, its port of registry and the nearest post at which it will call. — BAP, GMA News

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