Chinese official apologized verbally for Recto Bank collision â Philippine envoy
FILE — Local fishermen pull F/B GemVer 1 to the shores of San Jose, Occidental Mindoro after being rammed by a Chinese vessel near Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea.
The STAR/Walter Bollozos

Chinese official apologized verbally for Recto Bank collision — Philippine envoy

Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - August 29, 2019 - 3:33pm

MANILA, Philippines — The shipowner of a Chinese vessel that sank a Philippine fishing boat apologized more than two months late but the Chinese government already apologized months ago, Philippine Ambassador to Beijing Chito Sta. Romana said.

According to the Philippine envoy, a fisheries official of China already expressed a verbal apology as early as June when the joint commission on agriculture and fisheries between the Philippines and China met in Beijing.

The Philippine government, however, wanted a public apology from the Chinese side.

"It was clear to us that, not only from the president but also from the secretary of foreign affairs, he made it clear that what we want is a public formal apology — written not verbal," Sta. Romana said in a televised press conference in Beijing.

According to Sta. Romana, the forthcoming visit of President Rodrigo Duterte also served as an impetus for the apology as the Philippine government told Beijing that the Recto Bank incident will be brought up in the meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Now that the shipowner has apologized, the issue might still be raised in the bilateral meeting between Duterte and Xi but would focus on how to avoid such incident in the future.

Following the Chinese apology, Sta. Romana said the concerned parties are on the "cusp of closure."

"The issuance of the public apology by the ship owner is a welcome development. It helps clear the air for the bilateral talks that will happen tonight," Sta. Romana said.

Asked why the Philippines wanted a public apology from the Chinese side, the envoy said the government wanted the offending party to explain their side to the Filipino people.

"We wanted something not in the name of DFA or not in the name of the result of the discussion... It was supposed to be between two fishing boats so it was very necessary," the envoy said.

The issue of compensation, meanwhile, is subject to more studies and negotiations.

The Chinese side already expressed willingness to compensate but the real issue was the apology and the responsibility, Sta. Romana said.

On seeking accountability, the Chinese side claimed that they did not mean to abandon the sinking Filipino fishing boat.

The 22 Filipino crew members of fishing boat GemVer 1 were left floating in the sea for hours until a Vietnamese fishing vessel came to their rescue.

"They heard the shouts for help but they couldn't understand the language, which they were overcome by fear and then they reported instead to fishing authorities of China that what happened as they were leaving," Sta. Romana said.

The Chinese Embassy in Manila earlier claimed that the captain of the Chinese ship attempted to help the sinking Filipino fishing boat but was besieged by other Filipino boats in the area.

Sta. Romana, however, clarified that the Chinese ship's excuse for abandoning the Filipino fishermen does not excuse them from responsibility.

In the apology letter released by the DFA, the Guangdong Fishery Mutual Insurance Association advised the Philippines to file a specific appeal for civil compensation based on actual loss.

The owner of the Chinese ship that hit the Filipino boat is a member of this Chinese fisheries group.

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