Trade chief Lopez dismisses raising Recto Bank allision in ASEAN summit

Vivienne Gulla, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 21 2019 03:23 PM | Updated as of Jun 21 2019 03:39 PM

BANGKOK, Thailand- If it were up to Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, the Philippines should not raise the allision of a Chinese ship and Filipino fishing boat at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit this weekend.

Speaking to reporters, Lopez explained the incident was between 2 private vessels and does not involve the government. 

“Offhand, kung ako ang tatanungin mo, baka hindi kasi hindi involved yung government sa aksidente eh. Dalawang boats ng private fishermen,” Lopez said.

(If you were to ask me, I think it should not be raised because the government is not involved. What's involved are 2 boats of private fishermen.)

A Chinese ship sank a Filipino fishing boat near the Recto (Reed) Bank last June 9 and left 22 Filipino fishermen at sea. They were rescued by a Vietnamese fishing vessel.

The abandonment of Filipino fishermen has triggered public condemnation, prompting the Philippines to file a diplomatic protest.

“Kaya siguro mahinahon lang tayo dapat dito. Huwag natin i-involve ang mga government at tingnan talaga kung ano yung nangyari,” Lopez said.

(Let's be calm about this. Let's not involve the governments and look at what really happened.)

President Rodrigo Duterte, who will attend this year's ASEAN summit, dismissed the sinking as just "a maritime incident."

Beijing has proposed a joint investigation over the incident but Manila rejected the suggestion.

Lopez said he also does not see maritime issues affecting trade between Manila and Beijing.

“There’s no impact, because that’s more of political security, geopolitical issue, not really economic in nature,” he said.

“Ang nakikita po namin, there’s free flow of goods. Wala namang restrictions ng mga commercial vessels at transaction, pagpasok at paglabas ng goods,” Lopez explained.

(What we see is a free flow of goods. There are no restrictions on commercial vessels and transactions as well as the import and export of goods.)