'Let's just wait': Palace appeals for calm on China 'hit and run'

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 17 2019 01:49 PM

Filipino fishing boat FB GEM-VER was rammed by a Chinese ship off Recto (Reed Bank) on June 9. Jeff Canoy, ABS-CBN News

MANILA- Malacañang appealed for calm Monday on the ramming of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese ship, saying the government would wait for results of the investigation before making a move.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the government would wait for China's investigation before making a decision amid conflicting narratives from both countries.

"Let's just wait. Let the facts set in," Panelo told reporters during a Palace briefing.

"When the facts are all in and we are convinced about what really transpired then we can do something about it," he said, noting that "we have to cautiously walk on this."

Beijing is disputing the Filipino fishermen's narrative of the incident, describing it as an "ordinary maritime accident" with its foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang warning against "irresponsibly politicizing" it.

PH SAID, CHINA SAID

Twenty-two Filipino fishermen were abandoned by a Chinese crew after ramming into their boat which was anchored at Recto (Reed) Bank in the West Philippine Sea last June 9, in what the Philippine military said was like a "hit-and-run."

The fishermen said they were rescued from their sinking ship by a Vietnamese boat.

"Binangga kami ng Chinese. Pagkabangga sa 'min akala namin tutulungan kami, 'yun pala tatakasan kami," FB GEM-VER Captain Jun Insigne said.

(The Chinese hit us. After hitting our boat, we thought they would help us but they escaped.)

Malacañang earlier slammed the abandonment as "barbaric and uncivilized" while the Department of Foreign Affairs lodged a diplomatic protest.

"The outrage will continue until such time that we are proven wrong," Panelo said.

Beijing, through its embassy in Manila, meanwhile denied that its men abandoned the Filipino fishermen, saying the captain of the Chinese ship tried to save them but was "afraid of being besieged by other Filipino fishing boats."

NOT SILENT

Amid uproar over the incident, President Rodrigo Duterte has yet to make any public comment on the issue.

The President is simply waiting for the facts to set in before making any pronouncement, Panelo said. 

"He's not silent. He's waiting for the facts to set in before making any declaration," Panelo said.

The Duterte spokesman earlier said the chief executive was "outraged" over the incident.

"We will not allow any assault on our sovereignty and that's a policy. And that remains unchanged. Sovereignty is never a subject of negotiation," Panelo said.

Despite a long history of maritime dispute with China, Duterte has continued to seek closer ties with Asia's largest economy.

Last month, while in Japan, the President said he "loves" China but questioned whether "is it right for a country to claim the whole ocean?"