Report on boat sinking, Duterte remarks ‘not contradictory’
MANILA, Philipines — The joint report that described the sinking of a Philippine fishing boat by a Chinese trawler near Recto Bank in the South China Sea as a “very serious casualty” event and President Duterte’s remarks that it was a “little maritime accident” are not contradictory, Malacañang said on Monday.
“It’s a very serious marine casualty, and as against the President’s ‘little maritime accident,’ there is no contradiction,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.
Panelo admitted, though, he had yet to see the joint report of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina).
No international crisis
He insisted that the June 9 incident, where 22 Filipino fishermen were left to struggle for their lives after their boat sank, should not be blown into an international crisis.
“That’s serious enough. 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,” Panelo said.
He said the Chinese fishermen should be held accountable for abandoning the Filipinos at sea.
“You have to be accountable for that,” Panelo said.
The 13-page report of the PCG and the Marina said the Chinese vessel failed to initiate steps to avoid hitting the Filipino fishing boat and to extend assistance to the Filipinos.
But it also found that the crew of the FB Gem-Ver 1 failed to assign a lookout and that the boat owner employed an unlicensed chief engine officer, that the boat was overloaded and the crew had expired licenses from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.
Panelo said the government would insist on the accountability of the Chinese fishermen, but would not sue them if they “take responsibility and offer compensation.”
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Monday said the government should use the report to seek damages from the owner of the Chinese trawler. —With a report from Leila B. Salaverria
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