CHINA’S apology over the Recto Bank hit-and-run incident, carefully coursed through one of its fishing associations, is a “non-apology apology.” It is not an official and a formal statement from the Chinese government. It is simply an attempt at an apology to manage its foreign affairs crisis but without any official state approval, recognition or endorsement. Without such an endorsement, the so-called ‘apology’ is nothing but an act of appeasement.
More so, the apology is tainted with outlandish claims, mainly that the Recto Bank is part of China’s Nansha Islands in the Spratlys. May we remind China that the Recto Bank is not in the Spratlys but within our 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone and was recognized as such by the UN arbitral tribunal in its 2016 ruling.
Nonetheless, the “apology,” for what it’s worth, is a welcome development. It confirms the accounts of our aggrieved Filipino fishermen and clearly establishes who is chiefly accountable for this incident.
I now call on President Rodrigo Duterte, the country’s commander-in-chief and architect of our foreign policy, to do the following:
1. Press the Chinese government to adopt the Chinese fishing group’s statement as its official state apology on the matter, removing the part where it claimed that the Recto Bank is part of China’s territory.
2. Ensure that the Chinese government complies with its responsibility to compensate our fishermen not only for the cost of their destroyed vessel, but also for the loss of livelihood and profit they suffered since the incident.
3. Pursue criminal liabilities against the Chinese crew and owner of the involved Chinese vessel under Philippine laws, such as those in our amended Fisheries Code. An apology without justice and compensation is an empty gesture and a sham.
Finally, I call on President Duterte to also apologize to our fishermen and the Filipino public in general. The President must apologize to our fisherfolk for downplaying the incident as a “minor accident,” his men’s lack of belief in the accounts of our fishermen and even blaming them for being the victims. The President owes our fishermen and the general public an apology for not performing his mandate, for lawyering for China and for making statements and actions on this matter inimical to our national and sovereign interests. “Mag-sorry sorry din kapag may time.”