By Hannah Torregoza
Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon on Tuesday said China’s rejection of a third party arbiter on the Recto Bank boat ramming incident probe is no surprise given that China is consistent with their claim that it is part of their territory.
“I expected China to reject a third-party arbiter on the Recto (Reed) Bank incident because that will be inconsistent with their claim in the nine-dash line,” Drilon told reporters in an interview.
“Remember that they are claiming this as part of their territory. If they agree to a third party arbiter, it would derogate on their claim that their jurisdiction extends to the nine-dash line,” the minority leader said.
“That is the same reason why I have rejected to Malacanang’s proposal to have a third party because we are claiming that area as part of our exclusive economic zone (EEZ),” he said.
Had China agreed with a third party arbiter to probe into the incident, it would be inconsistent with their national interest and with their claim over the West Philippine Sea.
“So, I am not surprised at that statement. I expected that from China as it is consistent with their claim over the West Philippine Sea,” he further said.
Drilon had earlier thumbed down a joint investigation on the issue, as this would weaken the country’s claim on the Recto Bank.
The minority chief instead insisted that the government conduct an independent probe into the matter.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo earlier confirmed that China has rejected President Rodrigo Duterte’s suggestion to involve a “neutral party” to the investigation on the sinking of a Filipino fishing vessel by a Chinese ship.
Panelo said China is more amenable to the suggestion that the Philippines and China continue holding separate investigations into the incident and then form their respective “task forces” that would later meet to compare the results of their probe.
On the part of the Philippines, the Philippine Coast Guard and the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) jointly conducted a probe into the sinking incident and has already submitted its findings to Malacañang last June 20. However, Malacañang has yet to disclose the findings of the joint probe in public.