Palace defends Duterte’s silence on West PH Sea ‘collision’

15-Jun-2019 Intellasia | ABS-CBN | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Friday defended President Rodrigo Duterte’s silence on the collision of Chinese and Filipino vessels in disputed waters that ignited fresh diplomatic tensions between the Asian nations.

Since the incident happened at the Reed Bank (Recto Bank) in the South China Sea, Duterte had already spoken in public several times, but he made no mention of the incident.

Panelo explained that Duterte, often criticised for his brash language and controversial remarks, was just being “very cautious.”

“If you noticed, he makes a calibrated response,” Panelo told ANC.

Detained Sen. Leila de Lima, one of Duterte’s fiercest critics, slammed the chief executive’s “trademark deafening silence in the face of Chinese aggression and misconduct.”

“These are not the reactions that we need and deserve from our President and top diplomat. This sends an unfortunate message to the world that we tolerate injustice from China against our own people,” De Lima added, referring to Duterte and Foreign Affairs chief Teodoro Locsin Jr.

Romulo Festin, mayor of San Jose, Occidental Mindoro where the fishermen hail, urged Duterte to fight for Filipino fishermen at least in words.

“Tingnan natin kung paano nila i-handle itong ganitong situation, itong crisis na ganito, kasi baka maulit,” he said.

(Let’s see how they will handle a situation like this because it could happen again.)

The Philippines filed a diplomatic protest over the collision, wherein the Chinese were accused of leaving 22 Filipino fishermen out at sea after their boat sank.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang, meanwhile, said it was an “ordinary maritime accident” and he warned against “irresponsibly politicising” the collision.

Panelo refuted Geng, saying “we are not politicising that incident.”

“What we are focusing is on the act of abandoning; not the collision itself, because collisions happen in the high seas. But the act of abandoning is in violation of the UNCLOSthe United Nations Convention Law on the Seas.”

The Reed Bank contains offshore gas reserves that both countries claim ownership of, despite it being located within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone. Both countries say they are seeking ways to jointly tap those deposits.

Despite a long history of rows with China over the South China Sea, President Rodrigo Duterte has pursued warmer ties with Beijing in exchange for billions of pledged loans and investment.

An international arbitration panel in 2016 ruled the Philippines had sovereign rights to exploit the resources at Reed Bank. China did not recognise the case or the verdict.


Category: Philippines

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