By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Malacañang said that China’s version of the Recto Bank incident that Chinese fishermen had no choice but to flee after ramming a Filipino fishing boat because they were being besieged by other Philippine vessels was probably just imaginary.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo made the statement after the Chinese Embassy said that the Chinese vessel which hit the Filipino boat in the said area left because it was being besieged by other Philippine vessels in the area.
In effect, the Chinese vessel abandoned the 22-man FB Gem-Ver 1-crew, who were eventually rescued by a passing Vietnamese vessel.
In his press briefing, Panelo said that no matter the situation was, the crew of the Chinese vessel was still accountable for not helping the distressed crew of the Filipino fishing boat.
“Ang sinasabi ng mga kababayan natin, nakakapit nga sila sa almost submerged vessel eh. So ibig sabihin, kung totoo man iyong sinasabi mo na natatakot ka, is it justified o baka imagination mo lang iyong feel na iyon (Our fishermen are saying that they were holding on to an almost submerged vessel. If what they are saying that they were afraid of being besieged, was their fear justified, or is it just their imagination)?” he said.
“You are still accountable for not helping these people,” he added.
According to the Palace official, China should justify the reason of the crew of the Chinese vessel for fleeing the scene and not helping the Filipino fishermen.
“Bakit kayo ‘besieged’? Why did you feel that way? Kasi raw may mga vessels. Iyon pala iyong mga vessels, mga bangka – labingsiyam iyong mga nandoon (Why did they feel they were besieged. They said there were other vessels. It turned out there were 19 other boats there),” Panelo said.
“Ehm ano kung mayroon, bakit may mga nakasakay ba doon at papunta sa’yo (So what if there were other vessels there? Were there people aboard and were they going after you)?” he added.
Early this week, President Duterte apologized to the 22 fishermen if they felt that the government was not fighting for them, adding that he did not mean to belittle their plight when he referred to the Recto Bank incident as a “little” maritime incident.
“I’m sorry but that’s how it is. It is a maritime incident, ‘little’ in the sense that there is no confrontation. There was no bloody violence,” he said Monday evening.
“It’s a maritime incident. ‘Little,’ in the sense that it did not result to any confrontation, this is not to belittle anything,” he added.
“There was damage but luckily nobody died, but maliit itong bagay na ito (this is a small matter) for anybody to bring in the gray ships, the gray ships are the warships,” he continued.
Duterte also expressed the need for a third party to resolve the issue, saying separate investigations mean there would be prejudices.
“Kung ako (If you’re to ask me), it’s always biased even if it’s not. Kung kanila namang (If it’s their) report, it would always be according to the theory of the incident. So sa atin (to us) it’s prejudiced,” he said.
“Fair play is that there is no one that is under suspicion of siding with the other and you can only do that kung may board kayo na… Kasi ‘pag kanila lang (if there is a board that will look in to it. Because if we do it on our own), then we compare which would always be contradictory I suppose, that can be presumed, eh ‘di walang mangyari, parang walang insidente (then nothing will happen, as if nothing happened at all),” he added.