MANILA

Palace: Duterte weighs PH 'interest, security' amid Recto Bank incident

THAILAND. President Rodrigo Duterte (center) walks in to participate in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) leaders summit plenary session in Bangkok, Thailand, Saturday, June 22, 2019. (AP)

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte is carefully weighing the possible repercussions of the government's tougher action against the crew of Chinese trawler responsible for the June 9 sinking of a Filipino fishing boat near Recto (Reed) Bank, Malacañang said Monday, June 24.

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Duterte has issued a softer stance on the ramming incident involving Filipino and Chinese fishermen, as the Chief Executive is avoiding compromising the country's interest and security.

"As the chief architect of foreign policy, the President strikes a balance between the interest of the nation and the country’s security, as against the threat of potential war with another. He maintains friendly and trade relations with other countries, even those with adversarial claims," the Palace official said.

"The President is cautious as he is pragmatic. He is a tactician as he is wise. He presses the right buttons, at the right time. He is neither reckless nor tentative, as his detractors and critics picture -- or want -- him to be," he added.

The Palace official made the remark, after Senator Panfilo Lacson said the President's stance on maritime incident was "inadequate and weak" compared to his stand on other pressing issues.

READ: Recto Bank incident joint probe 'may be seen as PH waiving EEZ rights'

Responding to Lacson's latest statement, Panelo said the senator seemed to have "an amazing fertile imagination."

Panelo also maintained that Duterte's foreign policy is "based on reason, not emotion."

"He (Duterte) is not swayed by the hysterics of nitpicking nationalists, who do not see anything good of what the President does. They have been rebuffed, time and time again by the overwhelming majority of Filipinos, in surveys after surveys, including two successive national elections," he said.

"The Reed Bank issue is a navigation incident, and the President treats it as such. The protocol on this matter shall be observed in accordance with International al law or domestic law, whichever is applicable," he added.

But despite the President's softer approach, Panelo reassured the distressed Filipino fishermen aboard the sunken boat that the government would seek justice for them.

The Palace official stressed that justice would be served, "at whatever cost."

"The welfare of the Filipino fishermen is uppermost in his mind. He is not waiting for the result of the final investigation, whether done separately or jointly by the two countries, before he gives succor to their plight. All aid have been given them thus far to alleviate their present situation," Panelo said.

"We reiterate: There will be no escape at accountability of the guilty party, nor a denial of compensation to the offended victims. Justice will be served, at whatever cost," he added. (SunStar Philippines)


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