A handout photo taken on June 14, 2019, and released on June 15 by the Philippine Coastguard shows Filipino fishermen on board the BRP Ramon Alcaraz on Occidental Mindoro.
Philippine government 'abandoned' Recto Bank fishermen, Del Rosario — ex-envoy
(Philstar.com) - June 25, 2019 - 11:57am

MANILA, Philippines — A former Philippine diplomat questioned the government's response to recent developments in relation to former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and the 22 Filipino fishermen whose boat was hit by a Chinese vessel in the West Philippine Sea.

Former Ambassador to the United States Jose Cuisia criticized the government for seeming to be "careful" on not offending Beijing.

Cuisia expressed disappointment over the decision of the Department of Foreign Affairs to cancel all courtesy diplomatic passports after Del Rosario was denied entry to Hong Kong last week.

The former ambassador pointed out that Philippine officials should have asked why the former top diplomat was barred from entering Hong Kong, a semiautonomous part of China.

"Many of us don't really understand the reasons for the cancellation of his privilege... it's a privilege and they're taking away that privilege," Cuisia told ANC's "Early Edition" Tuesday.

"It causes disappointment, if not dismay, to us who have been in the foreign service," Cuisia said, adding that the "disrespect" against Del Rosario was probably in retaliation to the International Crimincal Court communication that he and former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales filed against Chinese President Xi Jinping.

For Cuisia, the Duterte government should have come to the defense of Del Rosario even if he was part of the past Aquino administration.

Del Rosario led the Philippines in filing an arbitration case against China's nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea before a United Nations-backed tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands.

"I think they should have at least tried to find out why exactly was he detained, why was he treated the way he was treated. After all, he is a former secretary of foreign affairs, he is highly respected, he has done so much for our country," the former envoy said.

Cuisia also compared the government's response to the case of Del Rosario to the case of the fishermen whose boat was rammed by a suspected Chinese militia vessel near Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea.

"Don't you think that the fishermen felt that they were abandoned by the Philippine government despite the kind of ordeal that they went through," Cuisia said.

The former envoy backed the suggestion of Vice President Leni Robredo to get an impartial third party to investigate the collision in the country's exclusive economic zone.

Cuisia warned that a joint probe would only lead to Beijing bullying Manila.

"I think we should reject the proposal for a joint investigation having seen how we reacted to China, it's very clear to me we're gonna be at a huge disadvantage if we a joint investigation with China. Obviously, they will bully us as they have done in the past," he said.

President Rodrigo Duterte himself downplayed the incident, calling it a "little" maritime accident, similar to the pronouncements of the Chinese government.

"Well, I'm sorry, but that's how it is. It is a maritime incident, little in a sense that there was no confrontation, there was no bloody violence," Duterte said Monday night. — Patricia Lourdes Viray

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