Palace accepts Chinese shipowner’s apology for Recto Bank mishap

Malacañang on Wednesday confirmed that it has accepted the apology issued by the owner of the Chinese vessel which rammed into a Philippine fishing boat near the Reed Bank (Recto Bank) last June 9.

“We accept the recent apology extended by the owner of the Chinese vessel to our fishermen affected by the incident,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.

“We likewise welcome the owner’s humility to take responsibility and acknowledgment that compensation must be provided to cover the actual loss,” he added.

In a memorandum penned to Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. which was posted by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), a letter from an unnamed association relayed the Chinese shipowner’s apologies.

Reports showed that the letter sender came from Chen Shiquin, president of the Guangdong Fishery Mutual Insurance Association.

“It is fortunate that there were no casualties. I feel deep regret that this accident had to happen and I would like to express my deep sympathy to the Filipino fishermen. The shipowner of the Chinese fishing boat involved, through our Association, would like to express his sincere apology to the Filipino fishermen,” the memorandum read.

He, however, insisted that despite the accident being “unintentional”, he noted that the Chinese vessel should take the major responsibility in the accident.

He also asked the Philippine government to file a specific appeal for civil compensation based on the actual loss of the Filipinos affected.

In his fifth trip to China from Aug. 28 to Sept. 1, Duterte is expected to discuss the Recto Bank incident among other areas of concern with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Panelo said the highlight of the President’s visit will be a bilateral meeting with Xi to discuss the comprehensive strategic cooperation between the Philippines and China.

He pointed out that the President also intends to discuss with Xi the crafting of a Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea and how they can expedite its conclusion.

“The President believes that the absence of the COC that is to be observed by affected countries has caused numerous conflicts in the subject waters that could have been prevented by a document that will regulate their actions. A good example of such conflict would be the maritime incident which transpired a few months ago in Recto Bank,” Panelo said.

Panelo said Duterte is also expected to raise the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) which nullified China’s claims over the disputed waters in relation to the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea.

He said Duterte and Xi will discuss the conduct and framework of a possible joint oil exploration between the Philippines and China in the West Philippine Sea.

The two leaders would likewise exchange views on fast-tracking the existing big-ticket projects of China in the Philippines and improving trade relations.

The two leaders are also scheduled to witness the signing of cooperative bilateral documents and memoranda of understanding meant to strengthen ties, deepen friendship and enhance diplomacy of both countries.

After his meeting with Xi, Panelo said Duterte will proceed to Guangzhou, accompanied by Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan, to watch Gilas Pilipinas in one of their scheduled games during the FIBA World Basketball World Cup.

Aside from Panelo, joining the President’s official delegation are Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr., Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez, Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato Dela Pena, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Commission on Higher Education Chairperson Prospero De Vera III, and Customs Commissioner Rey Guerrero.