His take
THAT DOES IT - Korina Sanchez (The Freeman) - June 19, 2019 - 12:00am

President Duterte has finally given his take on the Recto Bank incident where a Chinese trawler hit an anchored Filipino fishing boat. While their boat was sinking with some of the crew already in the water, the Chinese vessel simply turned around, turned off their lights and sailed away. These accounts have all come from the fishermen themselves. Duterte called it “a little maritime accident.” He also called out “stupid” politicians who want to send the Navy. We should just wait for the Chinese to air their side as it is their right to do so.

But haven’t they done that? Duterte's statement is actually similar to what the Chinese describe as an “ordinary maritime accident” and that the Philippines should not politicize the incident. Satellite images, however, have debunked the ridiculous claim that boat number 42212 was besieged by seven or eight Filipino boats. Only a few vessels were seen at Recto Bank at the time of the incident. The more pressing issue is why the Chinese vessel decided to leave the Filipinos. Did they want them to drown? Why did they leave if they clearly needed help? And really, who would believe that Filipino fishermen would besiege or threaten a Chinese vessel in the area?

Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad of the Philippine Navy has stated that this is not a “normal maritime accident,” especially if investigations will show that they were rammed. The vice admiral believes so. If it was an accident, why leave both the fishermen and the area? Incidentally, the meeting between the boat's captain and President Duterte will no longer push through after the Palace canceled the meeting. I wonder why.

It is clear that the Palace does not want to outrightly condemn China. That is expected considering the direction Duterte is leading the country to with regards to relations with the giant neighbor. We did not hear his usual fire and brimstone with cursing to the high heavens such as his tirades against the UN, the US, and even Canada. He even threatened war against Canada if they did not take back their trash. We heard his insults towards politicians opining on the incident. But on China after an incident like this, a toned-down response. Energy Secretary Cusi thinks that the damage to the boat would have been bigger if the Chinese intentionally rammed it. Senator-elect Bong Go expressed the need to know whether the Chinese fishermen were justified in leaving the area. Justified? Is there justification in leaving distressed people at sea? That the Filipinos may be at fault in all of this? Duterte’s men seem to be laying the grounds for an out for the leaders of both countries. I can imagine the disappointment of the Filipino captain and his crew after going through an ordeal like that, just as so many are likewise disappointed.


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