MANILA - Several senators welcomed the apology of the owner of a Chinese ship which rammed a Filipino vessel in Recto Bank last June, but said the victims must also be compensated.
In a memorandum addressed to Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, the unnamed Chinese company, through an association, apologized for the June 9 incident where a Chinese vessel rammed anchored Filipino fishing boat Gem-Ver 1 and left its fishers at sea.
"The shipowner of the Chinese fishing boat involved, through our association, would like to express his sincere apology to the Filipino fishermen," the memorandum read.
Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, chair of the Senate foreign affairs committee, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, and Sens. Francis Pangilinan and Francis Tolentino all agreed that the Filipino fishermen must seek compensation.
“We welcome the apology by the owner but we would also urge them to compensate our fishermen for the damage caused them by way of actual damages to the fishing boat as well as loss of income among others,” Pangilinan said in a statement.
Pangilinan also slammed the Chinese group’s claim that Recto Bank is part of Spratly Islands, which Beijing calls Nansha Islands and treats as part of its maritime domain.
Tolentino, for his part, said the apology “shows the validity of the Philippine version of the incident.”
“We should pursue our civil claim for damages to give justice to our fishermen as well as seek other routes to protect them in the future hand in hand with our sovereign rights,” Tolentino said in a statement.
Malacañang accepted the apology Wednesday, saying it welcomes the Chinese shipowner's "humility."
"We accept the recent apology extended by the owner of the Chinese vessel to our fishermen affected by the incident. We likewise welcome the owner's humility to take responsibility and acknowledgment that compensation must be provided to cover the actual loss," Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said.
The apology came ahead of President Rodrigo Duterte's 5th visit to China, where he plans to raise Manila's arbitral victory in 2016 that invalidated Beijing's sweeping claims in the disputed South China Sea.
The Chinese fishing boat involved in the allision was found to be registered in Guangdong.
According to the letter, the association believes the incident was "accidental and was "an unintentional mistake of the Chinese fishermen."
"The Chinese fishing boat should however take the major responsibility in the accident," it added.
The association urged Manila to file a "specific appeal for civil compensation based on the actual loss."
"We believe that, although this accident was an unintentional mistake of the Chinese fishermen, the Chinese fishing boat should however take the major responsibility in the accident," it said.
"Our association will urge the ship owner of the fishing boat involved to actively coordinate with the Philippine side to expedite the latter’s claim for compensation according to the procedures for insurance claim."
The Chinese ship was registered in Guangdong, with the owner a member of the Chinese association.
Beijing's embassy in Manila earlier denied that the Chinese crew abandoned the Filipino fishermen, who were rescued by a Vietnamese ship.
It said the captain of the Chinese ship tried to save them but was "afraid of being besieged by other Filipino fishing boats."