I almost fell off from my seat when I read the Sunday newspapers reporting that a SUSPECTED (caps to highlight) North Korean cargo vessel “Jin Teng” docked in Subic port delivering palm kernel for farm animal feeds was impounded as part of the United Nations asset freeze sanction against volatile North Korea for its missile program in defiance of UN rules. Wow! The Philippines is the first to immediately act within hours of the release of the sanction orders. We are now the first to show bold moves and be internationally compliant. Well and good?
WRONG! If you ask me, this is another reckless and provocative move and whoever ordered and sanctioned this must be exposed and held responsible for the consequences of this “kneejerk reaction“.
I read closely the Philippine Daily Inquirer report which said that the ownership of the said vessel is not even clear yet whether it is North Korean or not. Our Coast Guard officially found that the ship’s papers showed that it was a Sierra Leone-flagged vessel owned by a company based in the British Virgin Islands. It is registered under the name of Golden Soar Development whose address is in Hong Kong’s Tsim Sha Tsiu tourist district. Philippine government merely followed the alleged UN list and without the Philippine government doing due diligence to first verify the ownership. If further verifications showed this is indeed North Korean, then by all means. We all know this is a difficult and long process with the usual layering of documents, flagging and sites of registrations. But at this time, this is premature; definitely not at this stage when we have not even done the most basic step of verification. This is grossly reckless! And if we cannot eventually pin this down as a North Korean vessel, we will all be red in the face : an international embarrassment!
I visited South Korea exactly one year ago. I went to the so-called “38th Parallel“, that great divide that separates the two still warring Koreas and where North and South Korean soldiers face each other eyeball-to-eyeball everyday up to now hoping no one pulls the trigger first. There had been stories from those who escaped who told us about the North, of how repressive and harsh life is and how volatile and juvenile the young KIM JONG-UN, the Korean leader, had been. He deserves to be internationally sanctioned. But we must show to the world that we also do due diligence.
I worked in Malacañang for many years. It is unpardonable to act this aggressively on such an internationally sensitive move without first the cabinet security cluster meeting (or its equivalent now) and weighing options before a decision is made. Or was there one that we do not know of? Then let it be known publicly.
This is also recklessly provocative. Let’s not all be surprised if the next rocket launch by Pyongyang will be directed at our shores. Anyway, they are just test launchings! Then we can send our outriggers and bancas to battle!
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Jesus “Jess” Dureza served in various capacities under the nine-year Arroyo administration, including the posts of government peace panel chair in the negotiations with the MILF from 2001 to 2003 and as Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.)