PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has sought China's assurance that Filipino fishermen will enjoy their rights and remain safe in the hotly-contested South China Sea, Malacañang said on Tuesday, July 1.
Duterte made the pronouncement during the 39th Cabinet meeting held at Malacañan Palace on Monday, July 1, Presidential Spokesperson Salvafdor Panelo said in a statement.
"The President wanted China’s assurance that the rights and safety of our fisherfolks are guaranteed," Duterte's spokesperson said.
Panelo issued the statement amid tensions between Manila and Beijing following the June 9 allision of Filipino and Chinese fishing vessels at Recto (Reed) Bank, which is within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone but which is also claimed by China.
On June 9, some 22 Filipino fishermen alleged that Chinese trawler Yuemaobinyu 42212 rammed their fishing boat F/B Gem-Ver1 and abandoned them at Recto Bank when their vessel began to sink. They were later rescued by a Vietnamese vessel.
Based on Panelo's statement, Duterte made the announcement on the same day that Malacañang announced that China has rejected his proposal to have a "third party" investigator in the Recto Bank incident.
Duterte, at the Cabinet meeting, also directed the Cabinet officials to raise the Recto Bank incident during the country's bilateral meeting with China, Panelo said.
"The Cabinet discussed the Recto Bank incident where [Duterte] told the Cabinet that the incident be discussed during the bilateral meetings with China," the Palace official said.
Currently, a bilateral consultation mechanism is the avenue of both the Philippines and China to address any conflict in the busy waterway. (SunStar Philippines)