Pres. Rodrigo Duterte | Malacañang photo

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte is seeking assurance from China that it will guarantee the rights and safety of Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea following the June 9 Recto Bank incident, Malacañang said Tuesday, July 2.

According to presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo, Duterte made this statement during the 39th Cabinet meeting at Malacañang on Monday night, July 1.

“The president wanted China’s assurance that the rights and safety of our fisher folks are guaranteed,” the spokesperson said.

Panelo also said that Duterte wants the incident to be discussed during his bilateral meeting with China.

“PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte) told the Cabinet that the incident be discussed during the bilateral meetings with China,” he said.

Since 2017, Manila and Beijing have been engaging in a Bilateral Consultative Mechanism (BCM) where they discuss specific issues and development in the West Philippine Sea.

Duterte recently drew flak for his rather soft stance on the Recto Bank incident, where the lives of 22 fishermen were put at risk after a Chinese vessel hit them and left them adrift until a Vietnamese vessel rescued them. He has downplayed the collision as just a “little maritime accident,” and told the Filipino fishermen: “Well, I’m sorry. That’s how it is.”

Duterte was also slammed after agreeing with China’s proposition of a joint investigation into the incident. He suggested involving an independent body should the two countries’ findings fail to match but China rejected it. 

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