MANILA, Philippines – As President Rodrigo Duterte prepared to leave for his visit to China, Malacañang announced that the Philippines has accepted the apology of the owner of the Chinese vessel that rammed a Filipino fishing boat in Recto Bank (Reed Bank) last June.
“We accept the recent apology extended by the owner of the Chinese vessel to our fishermen affected by the incident,” said Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Wednesday, August 28, in a statement.
“We likewise welcome the owner’s humility to take responsibility and acknowledgment that compensation must be provided to cover the actual loss,” he added.
The apology, sent to the Department of Foreign Affairs by the Chinese government, was made public only earlier on Wednesday. The Philippine government’s prompt acceptance of it appears meant to clear any cloud hanging over Duterte’s trip due to the Recto Bank incident.
In the letter, an association of Chinese fishing boat owners called the incident an “accident” and “unintentional mistake” on the part of the Chinese vessel’s crew.
They urged the Philippines to file an appeal for “civil compensation” for losses related to the sinking of the Filipino fishing boat, Gem-Ver.
Based on descriptions of the Chinese ship by Gem-Ver crew, some maritime law experts had said the vessel may be part of China’s maritime militia – fishing boats tapped by the People’s Liberation Army to intimidate boats of other claimant countries without involving the Chinese Navy or China Coast Guard directly.
The letter from the ship owner, however, described the vessel as merely a “Chinese fishing boat.” (READ: Carpio corrects China ship owner’s apology: Recto Bank not part of Spratlys)
Panelo reiterated Duterte’s plan to raise the 2016 Hague ruling before Chinese President Xi Jinping, with whom he is meeting on Thursday, August 29, in Beijing.
His plan to push for the faster finalization of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea is also still on, said the spokesman.
But economic gains from China are also on the agenda.
Panelo said Duterte and Xi will discuss “the ways and means on how to go about the conduct and framework of a possible joint exploration between the Philippines and China in the West Philippine Sea.”
The two will also tackle how to “fast-track” big-ticket Chinese projects in the Philippines. – Rappler.com