MANILA MalacaAang on Monday said it saw no contradiction between President Rodrigo Duterte's remark describing the June 9 Recto Bank (Reed Bank) incident as a little maritime accident and the report of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) categorizing it as a very serious marine casualty.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made this reaction as the PCG and Marina provided media outlets with a copy of the 13-page report, Joint PCG-Marina Marine Safety Investigation on the Incident Involving FBCA Gem-ver.
In its report, PCG-Marina concluded that the Chinese vessel failed to take appropriate actions to avoid the risk of collision with a Filipino fishing boat anchored in the area and failed to render assistance to 22 Filipino fishermen who were abandoned at sea.
There is no contradiction. In so far as the 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, Panelo said in a Palace briefing.
However, Panelo maintained that the President thinks the incident is not enough to be blown up into an international crisis.
But when the President says it's not that serious enough to blow it into international crisis that is what he meant. So both of them are correct, Panelo said.
"Chinese crew may be held liable"
Panelo agreed that the Chinese crew could be held accountable, but still found it unnecessary to make a big deal out of the issue.
It's serious in the sense that when you leave our countrymen there after that accident then that's a serious matter. We will not allow that. You have to be accountable to that but you cannot blow that and make it into an international crisis, Panelo said.
Panelo emphasized that the only way the Chinese crew could justify the abandonment of Filipino fishermen at sea is if their lives had been endangered.
Chinese Embassy has denied the abandonment and instead claimed that their vessel was besieged by several Filipino fishing boats.
Panelo, meanwhile, pointed out that Filipinos must remember that the Chinese vessel, which allegedly rammed and abandoned a Filipino fishing boat, is a private vessel.
On June 17, Duterte dismissed the sinking of a Filipino fishing boat as a little maritime accident, insisting that he would not go to war with China over the incident.
Stay from stay out of trouble. Just build on our own. Huwag muna tayong makialam (Let's not interfere first). Do not allow a little maritime accident or intentional go to war there, Duterte said in his speech.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has already filed a diplomatic protest against China over the maritime incident.
After finalizing their report, the Philippine government will share and reconcile its findings with the Chinese government in a joint probe.
Opposition senators, however, have warned against a joint probe on the Recto Bank incident as it may weaken the Philippine position on territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea. (PNA)
Source: Philippines News Agency