MAKING clear that the Philippines is not a slave of China, Malacañang yesterday explained President Duterte is just being cautious before making any statement about the Recto Bank incident.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo made the explanation after Felix dela Torre, the owner of the sunken F/B Gem-Ver fishing boat, said he feels that Filipinos have no right in their own territory.
“Parang alipin po tayo ng China. Parang wala tayong karapatan sa sarili nating nasasakupan (It’s like we are slaves of China. It’s like we have no rights over our own territory),” Dela Torre said.
Dela Torre’s boat sank after it was hit by a Chinese vessel while it was anchored near the Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea. The 22 Filipinos who were in the boat were said to have been abandoned by the Chinese vessel and were rescued by a Vietnamese vessel three hours later.
In his press briefing yesterday, Panelo said that the Philippines is not China’s slave, and that issues of sovereignty is off the table.
“Siyempre (Obviously), the response is we can never be slaves to anyone… That includes every country in the world,” he said.
Malacañang earlier condemned the act of abandoning the 22 Filipino fishermen to the mercy of the waters by the Chinese vessel, calling the Chinese action barbaric and inhumane. However, the captain of the Chinese vessel denied the act.
“We are responsible. We are cautious, the President is,” Panelo said.
“As I said, the President, as a lawyer and as President, will have to wait for all the facts to set in before he makes a declaration or any move,” he added.
The Palace official said that Malacañang is not doubting the statement of the fishermen and said that its anger about the abandonment will stay until China proves that their vessel did not abandon the Filipino fishing crew.
“Not doubting but we want to know the facts since there is a contrary claim,” Panelo said.
“Kung kinwentuhan ka ba naman na iniwan ka doon ng ganoon-ganoon lang, aba siyempre magre-react ka agad. Pero yung ating nirereklamo nagsabi ‘Hoy, ‘di namin ginawa ‘yan?’ Ha? Oh sige nga (Of course you will get mad as well if you hear that they were just abandoned there. But the subject of our complaint is denying it. Really? Okay). Show us,” he added.
“Well we take it (statement of the fishermen) at its face value until proven otherwise by other contradicting testimonials and proof,” he continued.
President Duterte has yet to make a public comment about the incident since it was reported on June 12 via statement of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. The incident was said to take place on June 9.
Since then, the Department of Foreign Affairs has filed a diplomatic protest against China’s act of abandoning the Filipino fishermen. The Department of National Defense is also investigating the incident.
Junel Insigne, the boat captain of F/B GEMVIR1 that collided with a Chinese ship, could not meet with President Rodrigo Duterte as scheduled.
Insigne was supposed to travel to Metro Manila from Occidental Mindoro after he was invited by Malacañang to meet with the President following the incident in the West Philippine Sea where a Chinese fishing trawler rammed their fishing boat and abandoned it at Recto Bank last June 10.
Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Regional Director Elizer Salilig, Allan Gatus, said that Insigne was still too “traumatized” by the Reed Bank incident to travel to Metro Manila.
“Noong pagbangga, akala namin pagbalik niya tutulungan kami, biglang sumindi ‘yong ilaw na marami, dahil nakita kaming lubog na… Ayon, pinatay nila ulit ‘yong ilaw palayo na ulit sa amin (When they hit us, we thought they were going to help us. Their lights were all aimed at us and when they saw us sinking… that’s when they turned off their light and left),” Insigne said, recalling the night of the incident.
A Vietnamese vessel rescued the 22 distressed Filipino fishermen.