Locsin refutes Palace, says PH did not accept Chinese apology
The Philippines did not accept the apology offered by a Chinese fishing group after it admitted that a Chinese trawler was at fault in the sinking in the South China Sea of an anchored Philippine fishing boat it had smashed into and then abandoned the crew in the open sea on the night of June 9.
Tweeting from Beijing, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. angrily refuted a Malacañang statement on Wednesday that said the Philippines had accepted China’s apology.
Locsin insisted that presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo did not accept the apology, despite Panelo’s clear statement, and said he could not accept the apology because he was not one of the fishermen who almost died in the incident.
“Hey morons! I merely NOTED the apology. I did not accept it. I am not a fisherman,” Locsin tweeted late Wednesday from Beijing, where Twitter is officially banned.
“Panelo merely expressed satisfaction with the Chinese apology for the incident and the offer of compensation and nothing more,” he added.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) continued to ignore media queries about the memorandum it released on Twitter on Wednesday, hours before President Duterte’s departure for a five-day state visit to China.
The memo addressed to Locsin translated a portion of the letter sent to the Philippine Embassy in Beijing on Aug. 26 by the president of the Guangdong Fishing Mutual Insurance Association.
“At present, we have come up with an accident investigation report. We believe that, although this accident was an unintentional mistake of the Chinese fishermen, the Chinese fishing boat should, however, take the major responsibility in the accident,” association president Chen Shiqin wrote.
“It was fortunate that there were no casualties. I feel deep regret that this accident had to happen and I would like to express my deep sympathy to the Filipino fishermen. The shipowner of the Chinese fishing boat involved, through our association, would like to express his sincere apology to the Filipino fishermen,” Chen said.
Panelo readily issued a statement from Beijing, saying the Philippines accepted the apology.
“We accept the recent apology extended by the owner of the Chinese vessel to our fishermen affected by the incident. We likewise welcome the owner’s humility to take responsibility and acknowledgment that compensation must be provided to cover the actual loss,” Panelo said.
The DFA, despite having officials assigned for strategic communications and media and public affairs, would not say what action was taken on the letter.
It would not say whether it would file an insurance claim for compensation “based on the actual loss” as proposed by the Chinese fishing group.
It also would not say whether the Philippine government would press criminal and civil charges against the captain and crew of the Yuemaobinyu 42212 from Guangdong province, after an investigation by the Philippine Coast Guard and the Maritime Industry Authority found that not only did the Chinese trawler not take measures to avoid hitting the Gem-Ver 1 but also willfully abandoned the boat’s 22-member Filipino crew in the open sea.
The DFA also did not refute the Chinese fishing group’s claim that Recto Bank (international name: Reed Bank), where the incident happened, was part of China’s Nansha Islands.
Nansha is China’s name for the Spratly archipelago in the South China Sea.
Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said on Wednesday that Recto Bank was not in the Spratlys but in the West Philippine Sea, the waters within the country’s 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone, and was recognized as such by the UN arbitral tribunal in its 2016 ruling that invalidated China’s claim to nearly all of the South China Sea.
On Thursday, Sen. Francis Pangilinan said the Philippines should reject the part of the Guangdong fishing association’s apology that described Recto Bank as part of the Spratlys.
“We should not accept that Recto/Reed Bank is part of the Nansha Island Group of China because the Reed Bank is within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines. These words must not be accepted,” Pangilinan said.
Sen. Ping Lacson said he hoped China would also offer an apology to the Filipino crew of the Gem-Ver 1.
Other senators said they would push for compensation from the owner of the Chinese trawler.
Pangilinan said the trawler’s owner should compensate the Filipino fishermen for the actual damage to their boat and for loss of income.
The fishermen are demanding compensation for their losses.
Elizer Salilig, director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in Mimaropa, said he would discuss a demand for compensation with the fishermen and the owner of the Gem-Ver 1 on Friday.
Arlinda de la Torre, owner of the fishing boat, is reportedly preparing a “breakdown” of her expenses for the repair of the Gem-Ver 1.
Boat captain Junel Insigne said on Thursday that repairing the boat was taking a while because of rain.
He said he hoped the repair would be finished by the end of the year.
In Beijing, Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago Sta. Romana said “intense negotiations” and President Duterte’s visit to China had prompted the Guangdong fishing association to apologize for the Recto Bank incident.
The apology “cleared the air” for the bilateral meeting between Mr. Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday night, Sta. Romana told reporters on Thursday.
Sta. Romana said the apology did not absolve the crew of the Chinese trawler from abandoning the 22 Filipino fishermen after sinking their boat.
“It does not excuse them for their responsibility. Their responsibility includes … [not rescuing the Filipino] fishermen,” he said.
Sta. Romana, however, said exacting criminal accountability on the Chinese crew was a “complicated legal issue,” as it would require further discussions to preserve the diplomatic relations between the two countries. —WITH REPORTS FROM LEILA B. SALAVERRIA, MARLON RAMOS, MADONNA T. VIROLA AND MARICAR CINCO
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