PHILIPPINE authorities issued conflicting signals about Chinese apology for the sinking of a Filipino fishing boat in June, with President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s spokesman and top diplomat disagreeing about the matter.
“Hey morons! I merely noted the Chinese apology,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. tweeted late Wednesday. “I did not accept it. I am not a fisherman,” he said.
But presidential spokesman Salvador S. Panelo said the presidential palace accepts the apology of the owner of the Chinese ship that rammed the Filipino boat at Reed Bank in the South China Sea and left its 22 crew members at sea.
“We likewise welcome the owner’s humility to take responsibility and acknowledgment that compensation must be provided to cover the actual loss,” he said in a statement on Wednesday night.
Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago L. Sta. Romana said the ship owner’s offer to compensate the fishermen still had to be discussed.
“This is a matter that will still be subject to more studies, more discussions, and more negotiations,” he said at a televised briefing from Beijing on Thursday.
Wednesday’s apology comes more than two months after the mishap and on the day Mr. Duterte left for an official visit to China.
The Chinese fishing boat, registered in Guangdong, takes responsibility for the accident even if it was unintentional, according to a letter sent to the Foreign Affairs department. The owner said the Philippines should file a claim for damages related to the incident.
The Chinese Embassy on June 14 denied that a Chinese ship had sunk a Filipino boat in a “hit-and-run” incident. It said the Chinese ship was “besieged by seven or eight Filipino fishing boats,” preventing it from rescuing the Filipino fishermen.
It later sent its sympathies to the 22 distressed fishermen who were abandoned at sea for hours and were later saved by a Vietnamese fishing vessel.
Meanwhile, a local fisherman’s group rejected the apology of the Chinese ship owner, saying it was “overflowing with insincerity” and was issued in time for President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s visit to China.
“This is nothing but a fabricated statement to deodorize both President Duterte and the Chinese aggressor and make it appear that they are actually addressing the demand of the Filipino fisherfolk for justice,” Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas Chairman Fernando Hicap said in a statement late Wednesday.
He said the apology was overdue and the boat captain showed no sincerity “by being in denial of the fact that the ramming was no accident, but intentional to show arrogance and sow fear among the Filipino fishers.”
Aside from compensating the fishers, China can only redeem itself if it stops “occupying our fishing waters” Mr. Hicap said. — Arjay L. Balinbin