China echoes Duterte admin’s call for joint probe on Recto Bank incident
MANILA, Philippines — China has proposed a joint investigation on the Recto Bank incident that left 22 Filipino fishermen in the open sea for hours after a Chinese vessel reportedly rammed their boat in the West Philippine Sea.
This offer from the Chinese Foreign Ministry echoed calls made by some administration officials for a Philippine-China investigation on the incident.
“To find a proper solution, we suggest a joint investigation at an early date so the two sides can exchange respective initial findings and properly handle the matter through friendly consultations based on mutually-recognized investigation results,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang said in a press conference in Beijing on Thursday.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, who also serves as President Rodrigo Duterte’s chief legal counsel, earlier said he is considering the idea of suggesting to the Chief Executive a joint investigation on the sinking of the Filipino boat at Recto Bank last June 9.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra also previously proposed a joint inquiry with China on the incident.
However, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. dismissed the possibility of a joint probe and suggested that separate investigations be conducted by the two countries instead.
Lu then reiterated their expression of sympathy to the Filipino fishermen who was abandoned in the open sea. Lu described the incident as an “accidental collision of a Chinese and a Filipino fishing vessel.”
“I’d like to reiterate that China attaches great importance to friendly relations with the Philippines and safety of personnel at sea, regardless of nationality,” he said.
“We will continue to investigate the incident thoroughly and communicate with the Philippine side via bilateral channels,” he added.
On June 12, while the Philippines commemorated its Independence Day, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana in a statement strongly condemned what he called a “cowardly action” of the Chinese fishing vessel and its crew after they abandoned the 22 Filipino fishermen after ramming their boat at Recto Bank.
“Pagbangga sa amin binalikan kami at inilawan. Nung nakita kaming lubog na tinakbuhan po kami (After they hit us, they even went back to make sure that our boat was submerged before they left),” Junel Insigne, boat captain of F/B Gem-Vir 1, said on live television last week.
However, Insigne appeared to have changed his tune following a meeting with Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol who went to Mindoro Occidental to talk to the 22 fishermen on Wednesday. Insigne now seemed to doubt his own account of the incident.
The Chinese Embassy in Manila has denied that there had been an incident of a “hit-and-run” and claimed that the Chinese fishing vessel was suddenly “besieged” by seven or eight Philippine fishing boats.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry also earlier called the reported ramming as an “ordinary maritime accident” while President Rodrigo Duterte tagged it as a “little maritime incident.”
(Editor: Katherine G. Adraneda)
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