By Hannah Torregoza and Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon joined calls for Philippine authorities to publicly disclose results of the probe into the June 9 Recto Bank boat-ramming incident.
Drilon was referring to the results of the joint investigation of the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).
“Yes, it should be. Public interest demands the report be made public and for transparency,” Drilon told reporters in a text message.
Drilon said he believes the findings and recommendations made by Marina and PCG is to the interest of the Filipino people.
“Let us see what is contained in the report. I will be pleasantly surprised if it contradicts the President,” he said.
But despite the controversy, Drilon said it is essential for the government to maintain its friendship with China.
“Yes, but we must protect our national interest and assert our sovereignty over our territory and our EEZ (exclusive economic zone),” said Drilon, vice chair of the Liberal Party (LP).
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade earlier confirmed that Marina and PCG have completed their investigation and furnished Malacañang with copies on June 20.
Tugade made the confirmation during an interview at the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Bangkok, Thailand.
Meanwhile, Malacañang disclosed that China is not keen on having a third party investigator to resolve the Recto Bank incident and suggested that both countries form task forces instead.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made the statement a week after President Duterte said it would be better to have a third party investigator on the boat-ramming incident.
In his press briefing, Panelo revealed that China does not agree toa third party investigator.
“At first they offered a joint investigation and the President accepted that. Then President Duterte suggested that there should be a third party. They objected to that and suggested that the two countries resolve the incident,” he said in Filipino.
“They feel that if we have separate investigations, we should just meet. We should create our own task forces and then we exchange our findings. Afterwards, we decide on how to move forward,” he added.
But Panelo said the Philippines would insist on having a third party investigator if both countries have conflicting results.
“Perhaps we will insist on it. We cannot come to terms, let’s invite a third party,” he said.
“If the results of the investigation contradict each other, then how can we resolve this? Some independent body, it doesn’t have to be a country, independent body,” he added.
Panelo said as far as Duterte is concerned, it does not matter whether there is a third party investigator as long as the matter gets resolved immediately.
“He has no problem with it. He’s alright with a separate probe or having a third party. We can share our results afterwards and then resolve it,” he said.
Panelo also doubts that the Philippines and China will have conflicting investigation results.
“First of all, I don’t think there will be any serious disagreements because China knows that it should be resolved quickly since our relationship is falling apart because of this,” he said.
Panelo said China has not indicated any timeline as to when they will finish their investigation on the incident or when their task force will start functioning. On the Philippine side, it should start immediately.
The Palace official said both countries will only have to determine if the accident was intentional or not, and to hold the offending party accountable for the abandonment of the Filipino fishermen.
He also said that a mere apology is not enough for what happened to the Filipino fishermen who were left to the mercy of the sea on June 9. The fishermen were rescued by a Vietnamese vessel three hours later.
“Who will then be responsible for abandoning those fishermen? Why did you do that? You should be held accountable to that. We condemned that from the very start because that part is clear,” Panelo said.
“They’re trying to justify, hindi ba? They’re saying that they got scared by the other boats there. So what? Is it justified or not? To us it’s not,” he added.
“Why did you abandon them? What are planning to do with them now? An apology is not enough,” he continued.
Panelo, however, said he trusts the assurance of Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jinhua that China will not allow the offending party to go unpunished.
“If there is irresponsible behavior, they will impose sanctions. That’s their job. If the Chinese vessel is at fault, its under their jurisdiction,” he said.