MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte made no comment Thursday on the “collision” of a Chinese ship and Filipino fishing boat in the West Philippine Sea.
Duterte, in his speech in General Santos City, touched on several issues hounding the country such as communist rebels, the trash shipment from Canada, and investment scams but made no mention of the collision.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo earlier said that the President was aware of the incident and was “outraged” about it.
Twenty-two Filipino fishermen were left at sea off Recto (Reed) Bank by a Chinese crew in the West Philippine Sea Sunday in what the Philippine military likened to a “hit-and-run.” They were rescued by a Vietnamese vessel.
The West Philippine Sea is the country’s exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.
The military’s Western Command, citing initial reports, said the Chinese ship “accidentally collided” with the Filipino fishing boat.
Manila has filed a diplomatic protest over the incident according to Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.
Malacanang meanwhile called on Beijing to sanction the Chinese ship crew for abandoning the Filipino fishermen.
“Whether it’s a form of bullying or not, it’s outrageous, it’s barbaric, it’s uncivilized and we’re condemning it,” Panelo said.
Sightings of Chinese ships in the West Philippine Sea have made headlines in recent months amid rising tensions between Manila and Beijing over the vital waterway.
China has refused to recognize a United Nations-backed arbitral ruling on a Philippine case which invalidated its sweeping claims in the resource-rich waters.
The ruling was handed down at the start of the term of Duterte, who has refused to flaunt Manila’s victory in exchange for closer ties with Asia’s largest economy.