MANILA

China opposes '3rd party' investigator in Recto Bank incident

(File Photo)

CHINA has thumbed down President Rodrigo Duterte's proposal to allow a "third party" investigator to look into the June 9 incident at Recto (Reed) Bank that left 22 Filipino fishermen in distress at sea, Malacañang announced Monday, July 1.

Speaking to Palace reporters, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Chinese President Xi Jinping's administration does not want an intervention by a neutral country.

"Sumagot na ang China. Ang sabi nila, doon sa una nag-offer sila ng joint investigation. Nag-offer sila ng joint investigation, 'di ba tapos in-accept ni Presidente, tapos may third party. Ang sabi naman nila, huwag na 'yung third party," the Palace official said.

(China has responded. They reponded to the initial offer to conduct a joint investigation with the Philippines. They suggested a joint investigation and the President accepted on condition that there will be a third party. They opposed the proposal to have a third party.)

"Kailangan tayo lang ang mag-usap doon. Iyan ang recent (The matter should be settled between the Philippines and China. That's the recent update)," he added.

On June 9, Chinese trawler Yuemaobinyu 42212 rammed Filipino fishing vessel F/B Gem--Ver1, causing it to partly sink. The Chinese then abandoned the 22 Filipino crew, who had to hold on to pieces of wood for several hours to survive.

China on June 20 proposed a joint investigation by Manila and Beijing to come up with "mutually-recognized results."

Two days after Beijing made the proposal, Duterte accepted the offer and sought the creation of a three-man joint investigating panel composed of one representative each from the Philippines, China and a "neutral" nation.

Panelo, however, noted that China's latest proposal was just to "exhange" findings of separate investigations conducted by Beijing and Manila.

"Ang feeling nila, kung meron tayong mga separate investigation, then let's meet. Kailangan mag-create ka ng task force sa'yo at sa amin, and then we exchange our findings and then we decide kung ano na ang gagawin natin dito," he said.

(Their proposal is that we meet after our separate investigations. Each country needs to create a task force and then we exchange our findings and resolve the issue.

Investigation

Panelo said the executive department saw nothing wrong with the proposal, unless the results of the separate investigations are conflicting.

He also noted that Duterte was open to China's proposal to scrap the idea of having a third party.

"Para sa kanila, hindi na kailangan 'yun kasi kung magkakasundo na kayo, bakit pa kayo magti-third party? Oo nga naman. Ipipilit natin kung hindi na tayo nagkakasundo. Mag-third party tayo," Panelo said.

(For China, it's unnecessary to look for a third party since we are okay with them. That's true. But we will insist on a third party, if we have conflicting results of the investigations.)

"'Di ba sinabi naman ni Presidente, okay sa akin lahat iyan. Basta gusto ko matapos na iyan at malaman na natin kung sino ang accountable diyan. Wala siyang problema (The President said he was fine with all the measures drawn up to resolve the issue. He just wants to finish the investigation and know who must be held accountable. He has no problem with that)," he added.

Panelo, however, suggested that it would be better to tap an "independent body" as a third party, instead of a neutral country, in case Manila and Beijing could not resolve the issue.

"Kasi kung hindi tayo magkakatugma, paano mare-resolve? Some independent body doesn't have to be a country. Independent body. Pero ako, sa tingin ko, kung 'yun lang naman ang mga issue, madali lang namang malaman whether it's an accident or not," he said.

(If the findings are conflicting, how can we resolve the issue? We can look for an independent body, which doesn't have to be a country. Independent body. But I think, if that's just the issue, it would be easy for us to determine whether it's an accident or not.)

The Palace's position came after Duterte admitted on June 26 that he cannot confront China, since he and Xi had a "mutual agreement" to allow their fishermen to fish in the disputed waters.

Panelo clarified that the deal between the two leaders were merely verbal, but stressed that it should also be considered as "legally binding."

"Ano lang 'yun eh, parang nag-uusap lang sila. Alam mo kung minsan, ang mga head of state, may mga word of honor 'yun, hindi na kailangan na [pumirma ng papel] (That was just a verbal agreement. Sometimes, the heads of state forge an agreement based on word of honor, they don't need to sign a document)," he said.

"Bakit naman hindi [ito magiging legally binding? Ano ang masama doon? Legal basis? To serve and to protect the Filipino people. (Why would it not be considered legally binding? What's wrong with that. Its legal basis is to serve and to protect the Filipino people)," Panelo added. (SunStar Philippines)


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