“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte welcomes and accepts the offer of the Chinese Government to conduct a joint investigation to determine what really transpired in Recto Bank and find a satisfactory closure to this episode,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement released June 22.
However, Panelo said the Philippines is by no means relinquishing any inch of sovereign rights, nor compromising the rights of the twenty two fishermen.
“We are demanding justice for our countrymen, and we are using all legal means toward that end,” Panelo said.
He said that the President wants the creation of a joint investigating committee that shall be composed of three groups of highly qualified and competent individuals, with Philippines and China having one representative each, and a third member coming from a neutral country.
Panelo explained that having separate investigations by the two countries may raise speculation and accusation of bias.
He added that a joint and impartial investigation will not only promote the expedient resolution of the issue, it will also be in accordance with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which places paramount emphasis on the use of peaceful means to resolve international disputes.
“The duty of seafarers to rescue those at peril in the sea is a well entrenched principle of international law, maritime law, and humanitarian law as well,” Panelo highlighted.