Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said President Rodrigo Duterte is just being cautious and is waiting for all the facts to set in before making a declaration on the incident. 
Kat Leandicho, file
Palace: We can never be slaves to anyone
Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - June 17, 2019 - 7:19pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is not a slave of China, Malacañang said Monday in the face of mounting criticism for its supposedly soft stance on the ramming of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese ship near Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea on June 9.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said President Rodrigo Duterte is just being cautious and is waiting for all the facts to set in before making a declaration on the incident. 

"We can never be slaves to anyone," Panelo said in a press briefing.

"We have to determine exactly which among the two versions is true. We have to cautiously walk on this. We can't issue statements without the facts," he added. 

Last week, Filipino fishing boat F/B Gem-Vir 1 sank after being rammed by a Chinese ship near Recto Bank, an area within the Philippines exclusive economic zone. 

The Chinese ship reportedly abandoned the 22 Filipino crew members after the incident, prompting the Foreign Affairs department to file a diplomatic protest. The Filipino fishermen said they were afloat for three hours before they were rescued by Vietnamese fishermen. 

China, through its embassy in the Philippines, has disputed the Filipino fishermen's account and insisted that the Chinese ship did not abandon them.

The Chinese embassy also claimed that Chinese ship Yuemaobinyu 42212 was "suddenly besieged" by seven or eight Filipino boats. The Chinese captain tried to rescue the Filipino fishermen, but was afraid of being besieged by other Filipino boats, the embassy added. 

'Sovereignty never a subject of negotiation'

In a recent interview, Felix dela Torre, owner of the sunken Filipino boat, said he felt that the Philippines is a slave of China because Filipinos no longer have rights over their territory. 

Panelo insisted that the Duterte administration would not allow any assault on Philippine sovereignty. 

"Sovereignty is never a subject of negotiation," the presidential spokesman said. 

Panelo also defended Duterte from critics who scored the president for not issuing a statement on the Recto Bank incident. 

"He is not silent, he is waiting for the facts to set in before he make any declaration," he said. 

Panelo also insisted that Chinese fishermen are not allowed to fish in Recto Bank. 

"Eh basta’t teritoryo natin, nandoon sila – mali iyon siyempre (If it's within our  territory, of course it's wrong)," Panelo said. 

"But we do not know if they are fishing there...there are conflicting versions (of the incident)," he added. 

PHILIPPINES-CHINA RELATIONS RECTO BANK SALVADOR PANELO
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