PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte canceled a special Cabinet meeting on the sinking of a Philippine fishing boat by a Chinese vessel that has raised tensions in the West Philippine Sea, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said yesterday.
The meeting was supposed to be held today after the Philippine Navy anniversary celebration, which Duterte would attend in Sangley Point, Cavite, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier said.
Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi confirmed the initial plan during a visit in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, the hometown of the 22 fishermen whose boat was sunk near Recto (Reed) Bank last June 10.
“No meeting,” Medialdea said in a text message. He later told reporters that the meeting was “canceled.”
Lorenzana, however, said he has not been informed the meeting was canceled and that it would proceed “unless told otherwise.”
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo, meanwhile, said he had “no info on that yet.”
The Chinese Embassy in Manila said the crew of trawler Yuemaobinyu 42212 “bumped into” the Philippine boat and then left due to safety fears.
“The Chinese captain tried to rescue the Filipino fisherman, but was afraid of being besieged by other Filipino fishing boats,” the statement said.
The embassy went on to say the incident was not a “hit-and-run,” as some Philippine authorities had claimed, because the trawler “confirmed the fishermen from the Filipino boat were rescued.”
The 22 fishermen however said they had spent hours in the water before they were eventually picked up by a Vietnamese boat and brought home Friday aboard a Philippine navy vessel.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon dismissed China Embassy’s claim that the crew of the Chinese vessel that rammed a Filipino boat hurriedly left the area for fear they would be mobbed as several Philippine boats “besieged” their vessel.
Drilon called the statement a “lame excuse”.
“Kasinungalingan. Naghahanap lang ng palusot,” said Drilon.
“Sinasabi nila na natakot sila, bubugbugin sila ng walong fishing boats na nandoon. E kung totoo na nandoon yung bangka ng Pinoy, bakit mahigit isang oras bago dumating yung Vietnamese vessel? Kung nandoon yung mga Pinoy, e di agad-agad ni-rescue sila,” Drilon added.
The senator even said that personnel from the Chinese vessel have the obligation to rescue the Filipino fishermen in accordance with international law, the International Convention on the Safety of Life at Sea, and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
“Ang sinasabi ng UNCLOS ay bawat gobyerno, dapat responsibilidad nila na i-require yung kanilang registered vessels to rescue whoever is being in danger of being lost at sea. Ibig sabihin kapag may nakita ka sa dagat na in distress ay dapat bigyan mo ng saklolo,” he said.
The senator said China should be held responsible over the “hit-and-run” incident.
“Sa amin ngang mga abogado, may sinasabing ebidensya: ‘Flight is evidence of guilt.’ Kapag ikaw ay tumakbo, yan ay ebidensya na ikaw ay nagkasala. Yung hit and run situation sa ating mga kababayan, simple lang ito. Kapag nabangga mo at tumakbo ka, pwedeng ito ay evidence of guilt,” he added.
With Marlon Purificacion