By Roy Mabasa
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. called on the members of the United Nations (UN) to enforce their duty under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to render assistance to persons in distress at sea.
Locsin made this pitch at the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the entry into force of United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) at the UN Headquarters in New York on Monday.
According to Locsin, the “duty to render assistance” is found in UNCLOS and in the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, as amended, and the IMO Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue.
“It is the obligation of every member state of the UN and of the IMO to pay not just lip service to these conventions but to observe them in real life-and-death situations. The rescue of persons in distress is a universally recognized obligation of people and governments; and in 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. While no sanction is available in international law, it should be a cause of some concern,” he said.
He was referring to the sinking by a Chinese vessel of a Philippine fishing boat in Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea on June. The 22 Filipinos were left in the water until a Vietnamese vessel rescued them.
Locsin thanked Vietnam for “this act of mercy and decency.”
The 25th anniversary of the entry into force of UNCLOS coincided with the 29th Meeting of the States Parties to the UNCLOS (SPLOS).
The Philippines was one of the original signatories of UNCLOS in 1982 and ratified the instrument in 1984.