Navy chief backs Duterte’s ‘minor accident’ remark on sinking of Philippine boat
MANILA, Philippines — Navy chief Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad has supported the opinion of President Rodrigo Duterte that the incident between a Chinese vessel and a Filipino fishing boat at Recto Bank (Reed Bank) in the West Philippine Sea was a “little maritime accident.”
“It’s perfectly right when the President said that it is a minor incident. Bakit minor? Ang major incident kasi pag involved ang big ships like what happened sa Super Ferry, yung banggaan ng frigate ng New Zealand, it sank. These are major maritime accidents. But when involved ang small ships these are minor [incidents],” he told reporters Friday.
A Chinese vessel rammed and sunk an anchored Filipino fishing boat last June 9 in Recto Bank, which is located within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Twenty-two fishermen were abandoned in the open sea by the Chinese vessel, while they waited for rescue. It was a Vietnamese fishing boat that helped the distressed Filipino fishermen a few hours later. The government has yet to release the results of the investigation.
Empedrad previously described the incident at Recto Bank as “not normal” and condemned the abandonment of the Filipino fishermen at sea.
“The ship was rammed while on anchor…I don’t consider it as a normal maritime incident,” he said two weeks ago. A few days later, Duterte played down the incident as a “little maritime accident.”
Succeeding statements from government officials have noticeably softened after the statement of Duterte. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who was the first to publicize and condemn what happened at Recto Bank, later said it was “just an accident.”
Meanwhile, Empedrad said they would arrest illegal fishers within the country’s exclusive economic zone regardless of nationality as part of their mandate, amid the remarks of Duterte that Chinese fishermen are allowed to fish within the country’s EEZ.
“Regardless kung sino ang fishing vessel na yan, if they do illegal fishing like dynamite fishing, huhulihin namin kahit sino pa yan. We treat every fishermen similar based on the laws of fishing,” he said. (Editor: Mike U. Frialde)
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