By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senator Panfilo Lacson on Friday slammed the Chinese government for dismissing the sinking of the Filipino fishing vessel near the Recto (Reed) Bank as a mere accident.
Lacson said the statement issued by the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang accused the Philippine government of politicizing the incident last Sunday would worsen the dispute over the West Philippines Sea.
Geng had called the collision as an “ordinary maritime accident” and warned the Philippines against “irresponsibly politicizing” it.
This was in stark contrast with the earlier assurance of Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua that Beijing is “thoroughly and seriously” investigating the incident, and that it would punish the crew of the Chinese vessel if proven at fault.
“Even if it was an accidental collision as claimed by their spokesperson (Geng), it will not mitigate the criminal offense of abandoning our people to die in the high seas. Worse, an admonition issued by their spokesman not to politicize the incident only worsens the already tense situation,” Lacson said.
“As I said earlier, this calls for a hard punitive action after the conduct of an investigation by the Chinese government against those goddamn crew, whoever they are,” he reiterated.
The former police chief also backed the military in their belief that the Filipino fishing vessel was intentionally hit by the Chinese boat.
“Coming from the Philippine Navy Flag Officer-in-Command himself, there is no reason to doubt that our fishermen’s boat was indeed rammed by the Chinese vessel, whether it was just a fishing vessel or that of a Chinese maritime militia,” Lacson said.
Lacson was referring to Navy Flag-Officer-In-Command Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad, who likewise believed that the Chinese boat hit the Filipino fishing vessel on purpose.
Empedrad lamented the lack of conscience of the Chinese boatmen who fled the incident and left the 22 Filipino fishermen at sea while their vessel sank.
“Hindi mo pwedeng iwanan, ‘di ba? Bakit mo iiwanan eh buhay na tao ‘yon, regardless kung ano mang klaseng race ‘yan. You have to help, provide assistance,” he was quoted saying on Thursday.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Friday said the Philippines is not politicizing the collision but is rather calling out the abandoning of the 22 Filipino fishermen.
He maintained that the Chinese crew’s desertion violated the United Nations Convention on the Law on the Seas.