Palace: Duterte just 'waiting for facts' on Recto Bank collision

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com
Palace: Duterte just 'waiting for facts' on Recto Bank collision
The Filipino crewmen of fishing boat F/B GemVir 1, involved in the collision incident near Recto Bank, are being briefed at the Coast Guard sub station in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro.
PCG / Released

MANILA, Philippines — Explaining the silence of President Rodrigo Duterte on the sinking of a Filipino boat by a Chinese vessel near Recto Bank, Malacañang said the president is still waiting for the final results of the investigation.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had called for an investigation into the collision between the two vessels in the West Philippine Sea last June 9.

"He's (Duterte) not silent. He's waiting for the facts to set in before he makes any declaration," presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Monday.

Panelo initially released a statement condemining the incident, calling the act of desertion by the offending vessel "inhumane" and "barbaric."

The president had otherwise been quick to throw barbs at US President Barack Obama and at Canada, which he said he is willing to go to war with over garbage that was illegally shipped to the Philippines in 2013 and 2014.

RELATED: Top officials to meet on Recto Bank ramming incident

Palace 'open' to China's narrative on incident

Malacañang appears to be open to considering the Chinese side after the Chinese Embassy in Manila released a statement on the matter.

In a statement released June 14, the Chinese Embassy claimed that the captain of the Chinese vessel "tried to rescue the Filipino fishermen, but was afraid of being besieged by other Filipino fishing boats."

Panelo clarified that his initial statement still stands while both the Philippine and Chinese governments are conducting their own investigations into the incident.

He claimed that Malacañang is not doubting the statement of the Filipino fishermen but wants to know the facts due to the other party's contrary claim.

"We wait for the facts to come in... It's a maritime case or an ordinary case involving adversarial claims," Panelo said, adding that the accounts of the Filipino and Chinese are different.

READ: Drilon: 'We cannot say this is just a maritime accident or just a matter for maritime law. National sovereignty and national pride are involved'

Until the invesigations are complete, Panelo said, making statements on the issue is premature.

"Let us not jump into conclusions. Let us look exactly at what happened. We are just observers, we do not know the facts yet," Panelo said in Filipino.

Philippines needs to 'cautiously walk'

The Malacañang mouthpiece added that the Philippine government has to "cautiously walk" on the incident as there are two versions of the story.

While investigations are ongoing, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. earlier announced that he had filed a diplomatic protest over the abandonment of the Filipino fishing boat, which sank after being hit by the Chinese trawler.

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