For Duterte, neglect of Filipino fishers at Recto Bank a ‘serious marine casualty’
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte believes that the abandonment of the 22 Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea was a “serious marine casualty,” supporting the findings of Philippine investigators, Malacañang said Monday.
But Duterte earlier described the June 9 sinking of a Filipino boat at Recto Bank as just a “little maritime accident.”
A Palace official, however, noted that “there is no contradiction” to these statements of the Chief Executive.
“It’s a very serious marine casualty, and as against the President’s little maritime accident, there is no contradiction. Insofar as that incident is concerned, given the fact that Filipinos were placed in a dangerous situation where they could have been dead, then that’s a serious marine casualty. That’s serious enough,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo explained in a Palace briefing.
“But when the President said it’s not that serious enough to blow it into an international crisis that is what he meant. So both of them are correct,” he added.
The result of the official joint investigation report of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) showed that the sinking of the Filipino boat was a “very serious marine casualty.”
“It’s serious in the sense that when you leave our countrymen thereafter that accident, then that is a serious matter. We cannot allow that. You have to be accountable for that,” Panelo said.
He, however, said, “you cannot blow that (incident) and make it into an international crisis.”
“You know why? Because that was a Chinese vessel, that’s not the China Republic,” he added.
The joint PCG-Marina report was sent to Malacañang on June 20 but the Palace has yet to release a copy of the investigation.
Will the Palace release a copy of the probe?
Panelo said, “I will leave that to the President and the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs).”
The Palace official, nevertheless, said the government could file charges in Philippine courts.
“Yeah, ‘di ba sabi ko we can do that. But ‘di ba sabi ni Secretary Locsin they are going to compare our findings against their findings, and then they will issue a joint statement for the resolution of the three issues that I have mentioned,” he said.
“One, the nature of the incident; Number Two, the accountability of the Chinese vessel; and the issue (of) compensation,” he added.
If the Philippines and China would have conflicting results of the investigation, Panelo said, “Pag-usapan natin kung how can we resolve the difference.”
He said the Philippine government would insist liability on the Chinese fishermen who left the 22 Filipino fishers at sea.
“Definitely. There is only one way by which they can justify the abandonment of our fisherfolks and that is if by so doing their lives would have been endangered,” he said.
“That’s the only reason na pupwede silang hindi accountable,” he added. (Editor: Katherine G. Adraneda)
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