BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental - Sen. Cynthia Villar on Tuesday backed President Rodrigo Duterte's statement that the Recto (Reed) Bank allision between a Filipino fishing boat and a Chinese vessel was a minor maritime incident.
"Ang opinyon po ni President maliit na incident lang daw 'yun na hindi dapat makaapekto sa relationship natin with China," she said.
(The President said it was only a small incident that should not affect our relationship with China.)
"We will see kasi magre-report sila (because they will report) on what really happened and if it's just a small incident then maybe these fishermen can be helped and that would solve the problem."
Philippine fishing boat GEM-VER1, which was carrying 22 Filipino fishermen, was rammed by a suspected Chinese militia vessel in the waters near the Reed Bank off Palawan on June 9.
The Chinese boat reportedly abandoned the distressed fishermen at sea after the incident, a violation of obligations under international law. They were rescued by Vietnamese fishermen.
China, meanwhile, described the incident as unintentional and said the Chinese vessel tried to rescue the Filipinos but were "besieged" by several other Filipino vessels in the area.
Both the Filipino fishermen and their Vietnamese rescuers made no mention of other Philippine boats in the area.
The Philippines has filed a diplomatic protest over the incident but won't summon China's ambassador in Manila.
NO SENATE PRESIDENCY BID
The senator, in her visit to Bacolod City to celebrate its Charter Day, also said she is not gunning for the Senate presidency.
Villar, who topped the May senatorial race, was being pushed to challenge Senate President Vicente Sotto III.
"No, no, I'm just staying," she said.
Villar said she refused to sign a resolution supporting Sotto's continued leadership to allow incoming senators to choose their committees.
"Hindi lang kami pumirma ng support kasi marami kaming kapartido at kaibigan na incoming senators and we want them to be given the committees na before we sign our support for the Senate president," she said.
Villar heads the committee on food and agriculture and the committee on environment and natural resources. - Report from Nico Delfin, ABS-CBN News