PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has told the Philippine Navy to hold its ships and “stay out of trouble” more than a week after a Chinese fishing vessel hit a stationary Philippine boat at Recto Bank, well within the country’s exclusive economic zone.
Speaking at the 121st anniversary of the Navy, Duterte said the collision between two fishing vessels should not result in an armed conflict between China and the Philippines.
“With all ‘yung galit and one national official, even urging sending the grey ships, warships doon sa [South] China Sea. Alam mo, gusto ko ‘yan. Kung ako lang ang papiliin niyo, gusto ko ng action. But I am not in my boyhood age anymore,” Duterte said in a speech at Sangley Point in Cavite City.
“You do not send grey ships there. Banggaan lang ng barko ‘yan. Do not make it worse because that’s a fertile ground. Alam ng sundalo yan, miscommunication yan patay na. We are not yet as ready and we can never be ready in a nuclear war.”
It took more than a week before the outspoken Duterte commented on the incident.
A Navy ship, the BRP Alcaraz, brought home the 22 fishermen who were left at sea after the Chinese vessel hit their boat.
Duterte said he would wait for the results of the investigation into the “maritime accident.”
“I do not now issue statement because there is no investigation and there is no result. The only thing that we can do is to wait and give the other party the right to be heard. Importante ‘yan eh,” he said.
He then urged the Navy to “stay out of trouble.”
“Do not allow a little maritime accident or intentional go to...” Duterte said.
“Dalawang bangka lang ‘yan. Now you go there and create a tension, I said hindi ako gago na presidente na papayag. If we have to die, we must have to die in the correct way and to die with dignity.”
He said there were rules on how to handle situations at sea.
“You know, we are ruled — as a civilized nation and as members of the community — by the laws that govern whatever happened in the seas as we go along our business,” Duterte said.
“There will be rules for a military confrontation. There will be rules for a mistaken identity attack. There is a rule for fishermen’s boats. There is a rule for an aircraft carrier bumping a banca boat, a fishing boat.”
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo earlier in the day said that Duterte was being cautious in handling the incident.
“We are responsible. We are cautious, the President is,” Panelo said. “The President, as a lawyer and as President, will have to wait for all the facts to set in before he makes a declaration or any move.”
Based on accounts of the local fishermen, the Chinese vessel immediately left the scene and abandoned them with their sinking boat, and that a Vietnamese fishing vessel nearby rescued them.
The Chinese Embassy in Manila admitted that a Chinese vessel was involved in the Recto Bank incident, but it claimed that Chinese fishing boat Yuemaobinyu 42212 was “berthed” in the area when seven or eight Filipino fishing boats “besieged” it.