By Genalyn Kabiling
BANGKOK — A neutral third party might only be tapped in a joint investigation on the Recto Bank incident if there will be conflicting results of the initial inquiries by the Philippines and China, Malacañang said Saturday.
After President Duterte agreed to a joint probe with China on the maritime incident, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo explained that if the initial inquiries yield the same result, there might be no more need to have a third party for the joint investigation.
“Most likely when they (China) are done with their investigation, and we’re also done with ours then we’ll share with each other. If both investigations are similar so there is no more need. All we have to do is to issue a statement jointly and touch on the issues raised like was it an accident, is there is compensation,” Panelo said in a media interview here.
“Sa tingin ko papasok lang ang neutral body, kung hindi kayo nag-aagree. Kung nag-agree na kayo, ano pa dapat pag–usapan [I think the neutral body will come in only if we have a disagreement. If we are in agreement, what else do we need to talk about],” he said.
The President earlier accepted China’s offer to conduct a joint investigation to determine the truth and accountability following the incident involving a Filipino and Chinese vessel in the West Philippine Sea.
Twenty-two fishermen were abandoned at sea after their vessel was struck by the Chinese boat off Recto Bank last June 9. They were eventually rescued by a passing Vietnamese boat.
Duterte has also proposed the creation of “a joint investigating committee that shall be composed of three groups of highly qualified and competent individuals, with Philippines and China having one representative each, and a third member coming from a neutral country,” Panelo said.
According to Panelo, the joint investigation also seeks to “find a satisfactory closure to this episode.”
“It includes everything compensation, admission of guilt, justification for what you have done. It can even include [an] apology on the part of the erring side,” Panelo said.
For now, he said the President has proposed his “concept” of the joint probe, including the possibility tapping a third party, but the government will wait for the view of the Chinese government.
“It is clear there will be a joint investigation. The dynamics or the mechanics will have to be discussed and finalized,” he said.
Panelo also voiced confidence that the two countries, being longtime friends, would be able to resolve the latest conflict
“I agree with him there are no issues that the best of friends cannot agree on,” Panelo said, echoing the sentiment of China Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua.
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, meantime, said the inquiry into the incident, conducted by Philippine Coast Guard and Maritime Industry Authority, has been submitted to the Office of the President last Thursday.
Tugade, however, declined to reveal the findings of the inquiry.