Duterte on sinking: It was a little maritime accident

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
Duterte on sinking: It was a little maritime accident
Navy units are seen next to helicopters during the 121st anniversary celebration of the Philippine Navy at Sangley Point in Cavite yesterday. At left, President Duterte delivers a speech during the ceremony.
Krizjohn Rosales

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte yesterday downplayed the ramming of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese vessel near Recto Bank as a “little maritime accident,” as he stressed the need to investigate the incident and to give China the opportunity to explain its side.

Breaking his silence on the incident, Duterte said going to war would be the “most stupid thing” as a nuclear war would dry up the Earth and destroy everything.

“Stay out of trouble. Just build on our own. Huwag muna tayong makialam (Let’s not interfere). Do not allow a little maritime accident, or intentional, (make us) go to war. Pahinga ka muna. Pahinga muna kayo (Get some rest),” the President said in speech at the 121st anniversary of the Philippine Navy in Cavite.

“Maritime incident is a maritime incident. It is best investigated. And I do not now issue a statement because there is no investigation and there is no result,” he said.

“The only thing we can do is to wait and give the other party the right to be heard. That’s important. China, you have given a lot of things. What’s the truth?” he added.

Duterte said tension should not arise just because of a collision of two boats.

“Dalawang bangka lang ’yan (It’s just two small boats). Now you go there and create a tension. I said, hindi ako gago na presidente na papayag noon (I’m not a stupid president to allow that to happen). If we have to die, we must have to die in the correct way and to die with dignity. Hindi yung basta bangga ka nang ka-bangga diyan (You don’t just get involved in a collision),” he said.

The President also chided politicians who – he claimed – were calling for the deployment of Navy ships to Recto Bank.

“Huwag kayong maniwala sa mga politiko na bobo, gusto papuntahin yung Navy (Do not believe the stupid politicians who want to deploy the Navy). You do not send gray ships there. Banggaan lang ng barko ’yan (It’s just a collision of ships), do not make it worse,” he said.

Duterte said while he wanted to see some action, he is not in his “boyhood age” anymore.

“I have a duty that is a burden, sometimes more than I can carry. I almost cry,” he said.

“You read a lot about fumigation, anger, just about anything. You know, we are ruled as a civilized nation, and as members of the community by the laws that govern whatever happen in the seas as we go along our business,” he said.

“There will be rules for a military confrontation, there will be rules for a mistaken identity attack, there is a rule for fishermen’s boats, there is a rule for an aircraft carrier bumping a fishing boat.”

But Malacañang said it is inviting Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua to explain China’s version of the event.

“He was invited so we can talk to him about the final version. What we got so far is unofficial,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.

The defense and economic clusters of the Cabinet met yesterday to discuss the Recto Bank incident. They agreed to assist the 22 fishermen who figured in the collision.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol has been tasked to take charge of the government’s effort to assist the affected fishermen.

Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, who previously said the ramming may have been unintentional, was designated co-leader of the response effort.  

Nograles said Piñol has been directed to tap all available government resources to assist the fishermen, with components of the support package to come from other government agencies.

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