This photo shows the fishermen who were abandoned at sea after their fishing boat was sunk by a Chinese vessel.
The STAR/Walter Bollozos
China should not have a role in Recto Bank probe — ex-DFA chief
( - June 24, 2019 - 4:01pm

MANILA, Philippines — Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario does not agree with the proposed joint probe with China into the collision near Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea.

Malacañang earlier announced that President Rodrigo Duterte accepted the offer of the Chinese government to hold a joint investigation into the ramming of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese vessel.

"I don't think China should have a role in terms of our investigation. It happened in our exclusive economic zone. It should be us, we should be coming up with a full investigation," Del Rosario told CNN Philippines' "The Source" Monday.

The former DFA chief, who led the country in lodging an arbitration case against Beijing's expansive claims over the South China Sea, said the Chinese should not be "insulting" the intelligence of the Filipino people.

"Why are they doing this? How can you expect the offender to investigate his offense? And secondly, if you put the Philippines and China together one party is for seeking the truth the other is for suppressing it," he said.

Even if there would be a third party in the joint investigation, there would still be mistrust on China, Del Rosario added.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, meanwhile, insisted that there is no issue of sovereignty involved in the investigation into the collision at Recto Bank.

The justice secretary stressed that the country's exclusive economic zone is not part of Philippine territory and that the country only has sovereign rights over the area.

"The only issues in joint inquiry are which party was at fault for collision and amount of restitution due to offender party, and whether there was any liability on Chinese side for leaving [the] scene of the incident without extending help to Filipino fishermen," Guevarra said.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson urged the Philippine government to consider the issue of sovereign rights in the conduct of the proposed joint investigation with China.

The senator pointed out that the 2016 Hague ruling indicated that Recto Bank is part of the country's 200-nautical mile EEZ. 

"It is ours. Are we waiving ownership of Recto Bank" Lacson tweeted on Sunday. — Patricia Lourdes Viray

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