By Charissa Luci-Atienza
The chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs rallied behind President Duterte’s decision to give in to China’s offer for a joint probe into the Recto Bank incident.
Former Speaker and Quezon City Rep. Feliciano Belmonte Jr. expressed his support while stressing that the joint investigating panel should include an “impartial third party” that would lead it.
“I support the plan for a joint investigation with an impartial third party to chair or lead it,” he said in an interview.
He said given the time constraint, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs will leave up to the next 18th Congress the investigation of the incident.
“Too late in the day na. Let the new Congress do it,” he said when asked if his panel will look into the incident in the remaining days of the 17th Congress.
Occidental Mindoro Rep. Josephine “Nene” Sato had earlier sought immediate and fair-and-square investigation on the sinking of a Philippine fishing boat by a Chinese vessel in Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea.
“We stand squarely behind our fishermen, not only for Occidental Mindoro, but for the whole Philippines,” she said.
She expressed confidence the 22 involved fishermen who come from her province would testify truthfully to shed light on the matter.
Sato laments “the lack of patrols in the area which puts our fisherman at risk.”
Recto Bank is in the West Philippine Sea waters which is within the Philippines’ 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone in the disputed South China Sea.
China, however, claims nearly the entire South China Sea, including waters close to the shores of the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam.
After the Recto Bank incident, the Philippines has filed a diplomatic protest against China and has raised the issue before the United Nations.