Navy photo shows the first batch of Filipino fishermen rescued in the waters off Recto Bank after their fishing boat was hit by a Chinese vessel. Right shows the damaged stern of the F/B Gemvir1.
Top officials to meet on Recto Bank ramming incident
Alexis Romero ( - June 16, 2019 - 6:15pm

MANILA, Philippines — The security and economic clusters of the Duterte Cabinet are expected to meet Monday to discuss the ramming of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese vessel near Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea as the administration faces mounting calls to adopt a tough stance on the issue. 

President Rodrigo Duterte, who has not issued a statement on the incident, will not join the meeting because of a tight schedule, according to Secretary to the Cabinet Karlo Nograles.

"If the meeting (pushes) through tomorrow, it will involve two clusters, the cluster of (Defense) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and the cluster of (Finance) Secretary Sonny Dominguez. That's the security, justice and peace cluster together with the economic development cluster," Nograles told Super Radyo dzBB Sunday. 

"Hindi maiiwasan na isa ito sa pag uusapan (They can't avoid discussing the issue)," he added when asked if the collision incident near Recto Bank would be tackled during the meeting, which will also be attended by Foreign Affairs officials. 

Nograles said Cabinet members are expected to get a "clearer picture" of the incident after the meeting. Officials are also expected to determine their next move and to set protocols on who should talk about the issue. 

"Whatever will be discussed, we will report it to President Duterte. He will process whatever will be agreed upon and we will transmit our recommendations to him. Ultimately, it is the president who will decide," the cabinet secretary said.

Meeting set, called off

Reports yesterday quoted Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana as saying that Duterte had called for a special cabinet meeting on the Recto Bank incident. Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea later on said the meeting had been canceled. 

Nograles said the confusion may have caused by the use of the words "Cabinet meeting." He noted that only the president can call a Cabinet meeting. Citing protocol, Nograles said a meeting among department secretaries would just be a meeting if the president is not present.

"I don't think he (Duterte) can attend (the meeting of the Cabinet clusters). He will have a full schedule tomorrow (June 17)," he said. 

Duterte is scheduled to attend the 121st anniversary of the Philippine Navy at Sangley Point in Cavite
Reports also claimed that the president would meet with the captain of the sunken Filipino boat in Malacañang on Monday but Nograles could not confirm it. 

"I don't have information about that. It's not farfetched. The president is known to have this hands-on policy...but personally, I don't have access to such information," Nograles said. 

Palace: Let the diplomatic process work

Nograles also urged the public to remain calm and to allow the diplomatic process to work with regard to the sinking of the Filipino boat near Recto Bank. 

He said the issue should be addressed through diplomatic channels and handled by experts. 

"Our appeal to the public is do not fan the flames, let the process work...the process has been there and it's an internationally recognized process. We have protocols and procedures for that," Nograles said. 

"Rest assured. Our government is protecting the welfare and rights of our people. We won't abandon that. But also have to observe diplomatic protocols," he added. 

Nograles expressed confidence that Philippine and Chinese officials would be able to discuss the matter and find ways to determine what really happened during the incident.

'Premature to judge China'

He said it is premature to judge China and assume that it would not observe protocols and agreements. 

"Let's go through the process and the only one who can say that the other side is not cooperative, is not respecting us or is no longer talking to us is the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs)," Nograles said. 

Filipino vessel FB Gim-Ver 1 sank after being rammed by a Chinese ship near Recto Bank last June 9, according to security officials. 

The Chinese fishing vessel reportedly abandoned the 22 Filipino crew members, who stayed afloat for three hours before they were rescued by Vietnamese fishermen. 

The Defense department has called for a formal investigation on the matter. China has denied that the Chinese ship abandoned the 22 Filipino fishermen. It also claimed that the Chinese vessel was "suddenly besieged" by seven or eight Filipino boats.

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