THE Duterte administration has chosen to be "rational" rather than "emotional" in dealing with the allision between a Filipino fishing boat and a Chinese vessel near the Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said on Tuesday, June 18.
Panelo was reacting to a statement by Senator Joel Villanueva about the government appearing to be in a "state of confusion" over the incident.
"We understand the sentiments of the Filipino people. As a government, however, it must be rational rather than emotional," the Palace official said in a statement on Tuesday night.
Villanueva sought clarification about the incident, following the conflicting statements issued by Cabinet officials with regard to the allision and abandonment of a Philippine vessel by a Chinese boat in the Recto Bank on June 9.
Panelo, in response to Villanueva's remarks, made it clear that the government remains determined to defend the country's sovereignty and protect the welfare of Filipinos, including the 22 Filipino fishermen who had to endure hunger and cold before they were rescued by Vietnamese fishermen.
"The Executive’s standpoint has been clear and unequivocal: The issue of sovereignty is non-negotiable. Foremost in our mind is to serve and protect the interest of the Filipino people, including the 22 affected fishermen," he said.
"Unless and until the basis of our position has been refuted by contrary evidence, our initial position on the matter stands," he added.
He said attempts to discredit the initial narrative about the Recto Bank incident called for a "fair and impartial" investigation, in order for the government to "appreciate the facts of the incident and evaluate its proper course of action on the matter."
He also stressed that some Cabinet members had only made clarification, as the circumstances surrounding the incident that are "previously unknown" begin to "unravel."
"For one, there is no denying that several versions of the incident have cropped up, with even one coming from a member of the crew of the distressed vessel. This has been aggravated by the hysterical outcry of a number of pseudo-nationalists who have politicized and exploited this latest incident to lambast [President Rodrigo Duterte] anew," Panelo said.
"If after the clarification, the reader cannot still comprehend, then it is his mind which is in a state of confusion as he cannot grasp a simple correction of terminology, or worse he could be intellectually challenged," he added.
Twenty-two Filipino fishermen in distress at sea after their boat sank on June 9, 2019 were abandoned by the Chinese crew of the vessel that struck the Filipino boat.
Vietnamese fishermen who headed towards the area to respond to gestures for help from two of the Filipino fishermen found 20 Filipinos clinging to plastic barrels and pieces of wood in the sea. (SunStar Philippines)