By Argyll Geducos
Malacañang said President Duterte thinks that the abandonment of the 22 Filipino fishermen by the Chinese vessel which hit their anchored boat last month is a serious violation, backing the results of the joint investigation of the Philippine Coast Guard and Maritime Industry Authority (PCG-Marina).
Based on the final joint investigation report, the crew of the Chinese vessel failed to take measures to prevent the accident from happening, and also failed to rescue the Filipino fishermen who were in distress.
In his Monday press briefing, Panelo said Duterte agrees that leaving the Filipino fishermen to the mercy of the elements near the Recto Bank is indeed a serious maritime offense despite his earlier statement that it was a simple maritime incident.
“Insofar as that incident is concerned, given the fact that Filipinos were placed in a dangerous situation where they could have been dead, then that’s a serious marine casualty. That’s serious enough,” he said.
“But when the President said it’s not that serious enough to blow it into an international crisis that is what he meant. So both of them (Duterte and the PCG-Marina report) are correct,” he added.
Quoting Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., Panelo said that the government will now compare their findings with that of China, and then both countries will issue a joint statement for the resolution of the nature of the incident, accountability, and the issue on compensation.
The Palace official then reiterated that it is necessary to have a joint investigation with China to find out that the findings of the two countries are consistent with one another. He, however, said that the Philippines will insist on the liability of the crew of the Chinese vessel in abandoning the Filipino fishermen at sea.
“Definitely [we will insist on liability]. There is only one way by which they can justify the abandonment of our fisherfolks and that is if by so doing their lives would have been endangered,” Panelo said.
Earlier, China said that the Chinese vessel fled the scene because it was afraid of being besieged by the other boats in the area. Panelo, however, reiterated that their reason was not justifiable.
“Ano’ng threat? Dahil may mga maraming bangka doon na nagkalat kasi may labingsiyam ata. Eh ano kung may nagkalat doon? May nakasakay ba doon? Hindi nga nakasakay mga Pilipino doon, eh. Nakakapit nga sa mother vessel (What threat? Because there were 19 other boats there? So what? Our fishermen were hanging on their own boat, not on those other boats),” he said.
“As far as I can see, kung ganoon ang nangyari (if that’s what happened), then there’s no threat,” he added.
Panelo then said determining the accountability of the crew of the Chinese vessel is up to the Chinese government.
“Sila magde-decide niyan. Kasi nga supposed to be yung (They will decide on that because supposedly, the) Chinese vessel, [is] under their jurisdiction. At sinabi na rin nila that they will not allow it. Kung may kasalanan sila (They also said they will not allow it so if they were at fault), they will impose sanction for their irresponsible behavior,” he said.
However, Panelo said that if the Chinese government is unable to hold the crew of the Chinese vessel accountable, the Philippine government will be suing them in the country’s jurisdiction.
“Kung accountable sila at meron namang compensation, at pinrosecute nila, whatever, kung ano sanction nila, oh diba justice na rin yun (If they are held accountable, are sanctioned, and they compensated the Filipino fishermen, I think that’s justice already, right)? But if they cannot do that, then we will sue them in our jurisdiction,” he said.
“Kung aakuin at merong compensation, palagay ko, sa tingin ko okay na yun (If they will owe up and compensate our fishermen, then I think that’s alright already),” he added.
According to Panelo, the crew of the Chinese vessel can be charged for “reckless imprudence resulting to serious damage to property, and endangering the lives of our countrymen.”