MANILA — Beijing will continue to investigate the incident between a Filipino and Chinese fishing vessels near the Recto Bank and enhance its communication with the Philippine government, a Chinese Foreign Ministry official said Monday.
“We are ready to enhance communication with the Philippine side on the investigation, increase understanding, dispel mistrust and find out what actually happened,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said in a statement.
Last week, a Filipino fishing boat and a Chinese vessel figured in a collision within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone off Palawan. The incident resulted in the sinking of the Filipino boat whose crewmembers were abandoned and floating in the water for several hours.
“On the early morning of June 10, an accidental collision took place between a Chinese fishing vessel and Filipino fishing vessels near the Liyue Tan. We express our sympathy to the Filipino fishermen who were in distress,” Lu said.
The Recto Bank, which is also claimed by Beijing, is named Liyue Tan in China.
In his statement, Lu said the incident is “only an accidental collision between fishing boats at sea.”
At the same time, he said “in the spirit of cooperation and friendship” the incident should be “handled properly based on fact”.
“It is irresponsible and counter-constructive to link this incident with China-Philippines friendship or even make political interpretations out of it. In a highly responsible attitude, China will continue to earnestly investigate into this matter,” he said.
In an interview, Lucio Blanco Pitlo III, a research fellow at the Asia Pacific Pathways to Progress Foundation, described the collision as an “unfortunate incident” that should not take place again in the future.
“Again, it’s a fishing incident. It should remain as a fishing incident. It’s a bit of an overstretch to say that it is indicative of how China treats us. I think that people tend to overplay that part,” he said.
“But it’s an unfortunate incident that should not take place again in the future. If this continues to take place, again, that would undermine the improved relations that President Rodrigo Duterte invested in the last three years,” he pointed out. Joyce Ann L. Rocamora / PNA – northboundasia.com