Mga Balitang Maharlika, Local at International

Duterte open to joint PH-China probe on WPS incident

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MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday welcomed a joint investigation by both the Philippine and Chinese authorities on the alleged ramming and abandonment of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese vessel at the Recto Bank at the West Philippine Sea (WPS) on June 9.

“The President welcomes a joint investigation and an early resolution of the case. We will await a formal communication from the Chinese Embassy,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a message to reporters.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra suggested a probe on the sea mishap to be jointly participated in by representatives from the two countries.

The Chinese Embassy also suggested a joint investigation to allow the two countries to “exchange respective initial findings and properly handle the matter through friendly consultations based on mutually-recognized investigation results”.

On Tuesday (June 18), Panelo, who is also Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, floated the possibility of suggesting the idea of a joint investigation to the President.

Despite his suggestion, Panelo said the Palace would rather wait for results of the separate investigations conducted by both the Philippines and China.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, in an interview with reporters, backed Panelo’s suggestion noting that a joint probe could be “one of the options”.

“It’s possible, it’s one of the options,” Nograles said, stressing that government will still have to await China’s response.

“After China makes the reply, when it does make a reply, we will proceed with whatever options are open to us,” Nograles said.

On Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang suggested to hold a joint investigation “at an early date” to find a proper solution and “so the two sides can exchange respective initial findings and properly handle the matter through friendly consultations based on mutually-recognized investigation results”.

The Philippine government has already filed a diplomatic protest against China in relation to the Recto Bank incident.

The 22 affected Filipino fishermen received a total of PHP45,000, including PHP25,000 loan, each as well as boats, rice, scholarships for their children and livelihood opportunities from the government.

The government also gave financial assistance to the owner for the repair of the damaged fishing boat, F/B GEM-VIR. (PNA / Azer Parrocha)

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