PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, July 8, agreed with the findings of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) that the June 9 allision between a Filipino fishing boat and a Chinese vessel at Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea was a "very serious marine casualty."
But he reiterated that it was a "very small" incident.
"'Yung bungguan (The allision)? It is a serious [incident]," Duterte told Palace reporters in a chance interview, when asked to comment on the PCG and Marina's official report on the Recto Bank incident.
"Pero when you talk about marine transportation or -- it is a maritime incident. And that is very small because nobody died," the President added.
A Chinese vessel struck Philippine fishing boat F/B Gem-Ver1, which was anchored near Recto Bank on June 9. The fishing boat sunk and the Chinese crew abandoned the 22 Filipino fishermen, who were rescued by Vietnamese fishermen.
According to the PCG-Marina report, the Recto Bank incident was a "very serious marine casualty" because of the total loss of Gem-Ver1.
The report also emphasized the Chinese boat's failure "to take appropriate action to avoid the risk of collision and to render assistance to a vessel in distress."
In his previous speeches, Duterte had repeatedly claimed that the allision was a mere "little maritime accident."
The Chief Executive had likewise revealed that he had a "mutual" agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping to allow Chinese fishermen to fish within the Philippine waters.
His pronouncement with regard to the Philippines' exclusive economic zone has been strongly condemned by his critics, who claimed that such deal with Xi could be ground for impeachment as it was "unconstitutional."
Duterte, in his latest remarks, stressed that there was nothing wrong with the fishing arrangement between Manila and Beijing.
"I will educate people na 'yung ginawa ko, sabi ko, "You can fish," tama talaga ako. At hindi magiging unconstitutional iyan (I will educate the people about my decision that China can fish. I did the right decision. And that is not unconstitutional)," he said.
"By any stretch of imagination, hindi unconstitutional ang ginawa ko (what I did is not unconstitutional). As a matter of fact, it was in keeping with the law," he added. (SunStar Philippines)