MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte is taking the "right approach" on the Recto (Reed) Bank hit and run incident, former President and outgoing House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said.
Duterte, who has been forging closer ties with China since he rose to the presidency in 2016, has yet to comment on the incident, where a Chinese vessel rammed into a Filipino fishing boat and abandoned 22 fishermen at sea.
"I have full confidence in how President Dutrerte and [Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro] Locsin see the issue," Arroyo told ANC.
"Take calibrated response and be as civil as they have to be. I think that's [the] right approach," she said.
The former chief executive admitted that she also forged closer ties with Beijing during her presidency, noting that she flew to China almost every year during her term.
"China is our big neighbor in the North. Shouldn't we be friends with our big neighbor in the north?" she said.
(Catch the full interview of Tina Monzon Palma with the outgoing House Speaker on Monday, June 17 at 6 p.m. on ANC.)
Beijing will "thoroughly and seriously" investigate the collision, its envoy to the Philippines said Friday.
China shares the Philippines "concerns" about the incident near Reed Bank (Recto Bank) in the South China Sea, said Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua, in a message to Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.
"If it were true that it was Chinese fishing boat which did it, they would be duly educated and punished for their irresponsible behavior," he said.
"Incidents happen even in the best regulated family. We hope this incident could be held in a proper context," he said.
The Philippines filed a diplomatic protest over the collision, wherein the Chinese were accused of leaving 22 Filipino fishermen out at sea after their boat sank.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said it was an "ordinary maritime accident" and he warned against "irresponsibly politicizing" the collision.
The Reed Bank contains offshore gas reserves that both countries claim ownership of, despite it being located within the Philippines' 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone. Both countries say they are seeking ways to jointly tap those deposits.