President Rodrigo Duterte will decide whether or not there is a need to talk with Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss the recent “collision” between Chinese and Filipino fishing vessels in Recto Bank (Reed Bank) in the West Philippine Sea, Malacañang said.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made this remark after Senator Panfilo Lacson urged Duterte to consider a “leader-to-leader talk”, stressing that countries considered as “friends” are not expected to treat each other like that.
“That’s the call of the President. Let’s wait for him. We want to find out first if it was really—if it was intentional,” Panelo said in a Palace briefing. “If it is intentional, it’s an act of aggression.”
Panelo said Chinese authorities, including Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua, have yet to explain their side of the story.
He, however, said the Palace will not summon Zhao since he should take it upon himself to explain the incident himself.
“I think we don’t have to summon him (Zhao). If he’s listening now, he should explain,” Panelo said.
“Hindi naman natin alam kung sinadya or may sanction ang Chinese government. Hindi pa nga natin alam kung — sino ba may-ari nun (We don’t even know if it was done intentionally or if the Chinese government has issued sanctions. We don’t even know who owns the vessel)? Is that a private vessel, ship or what? Kaya nga namin pinapaimbestigahan sa kanila (That’s why we want them to investigate first). We are calling their attention: Do something about it. We want to know,” he added.
The Department of National Defense earlier confirmed that a Chinese fishing vessel allegedly abandoned a sinking Filipino fishing boat after the collision. A Vietnamese fishing vessel in the vicinity later rescued 22 Filipino fishermen.
PH-China Ties At Stake
Panelo, meanwhile, acknowledged that the collision and China’s continued aggression in the West Philippine Sea could affect friendly ties between the two countries.
“Siyempre (Of course) it will always affect the relationship if certain incidents of that nature come up,” Panelo said.
Panelo earlier asked Chinese authorities to sanction the crew of a Chinese fishing vessel, describing the abandonment of a sinking Filipino ship “outrageous, barbaric, and civilized.”
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said his department has already filed a diplomatic protest against China on the collision.
Panelo said the government will always take a “calibrated” approach against China but at the same time, it will not allow the Philippines to be assaulted or bullied.
In April, Duterte said he is willing to compromise with China amid the presence of hundreds of Chinese vessels in the contested waters but his approach would change once they harm Filipinos.
“I said that is part of the conflict because they have gobbled up the whole of China Sea. Para sa kanila, kanila ‘yan (For them, it is theirs). So they feel free to roam around and do whatever, but they actually never harmed or arrested any Filipino,” Duterte said in an interview in Puerto Princesa Palawan on April 4.
“I am sure that it has something to do with the greater game of geopolitics and it is not directed to us. And I assure you that if they kill or arrest people there who are Filipinos, then that would be the time that we will have to decide on what to do,” he added. (PNA)