Duterte open to PH-China probe into Recto Bank boat sinking

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte finds a joint Philippines-China investigation into the Recto (Reed) Bank boat sinking acceptable, Malacañang said on Thursday, June 20.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said the Chief Executive "welcomes" such a probe, which was suggested by the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

"The President welcomes a joint investigation and an early resolution of the case," Panelo said in a text message.

Malacañang, however, is yet to receive a formal communication from the Chinese government on the recommendation.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said during a Thursday press conference, "To find a proper solution, we suggest a joint investigation at an early date so the two sides can exchange respective initial findings and properly handle the matter through friendly consultations based on mutually-recognized investigation results."

Philippine Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra had also suggested a joint investigation by the two governments during a June 17 Cabinet cluster meeting. Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr, however, thumbed it down, saying on Twitter that "a joint investigation trenches on each other's sovereignty."

Duterte had earlier spared China of any public condemnation for the sinking of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese vessel on June 9 in Recto Bank, within the Philippines' Exclusive Economic Zone.

He had described it as a "maritime incident" that requires further investigation.

This, despite Locsin calling the abandonment of the Filipino crew by the Chinese ship a "felony." Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had also called on China to apologize and provide compensation for the fishermen, whether or not the boat sinking was intentional.

But the Palace has said it would wait for an investigation to yield "established facts" before demanding reparation for the Filipino fishermen.

Malacañang, after also condemning the abandonment, refused to summon Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua, with Panelo saying such an act could be misconstrued as laying blame on China.

Critics have lambasted the Duterte government's tame response to the boat sinking, pointing out how the President did not hesitate to condemn other countries and foreign entities on other controversies. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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