Cabinet secretaries to meet on PH boat sinking without Duterte

MANILA, Philippines – Cabinet secretaries plan to meet on Monday afternoon, June 17, about the sinking of a Philippine fishing boat in Recto Bank (Reed Bank), in the absence of President Rodrigo Duterte who has other appointments.

If this meeting pushes through, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said this will involve the Cabinet clusters led by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III.

In a DZBB interview on Sunday, June 16, Nograles said, "If the meeting will push through tomorrow (Monday), it will involve two clusters – cluster ni (of) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana at (and) cluster ni (of) Secretary Sonny Dominguez. That's the Security, Justice, and Peace Cluster together with the Economic Development Cluster." 

Nograles said this is called a joint cluster meeting and not a Cabinet meeting "in the strictest sense," because it is only a Cabinet meeting if the President attends.

The secretary to the Cabinet said there was earlier confusion about a supposed "emergency Cabinet meeting" because of "loose" usage of words. Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi earlier said there will be an emergency Cabinet meeting about the boat sinking.

Nograles said the joint cluster meeting will take place without the President.

"I don't think makaka-attend siya kasi puno schedule niya tomorrow (Monday). Meron siya naka-set na appointment or agenda," he said. (I don't think he can attend because his schedule tomorrow is full. He has a set appointment or agenda.)

Duterte is scheduled to attend the 121st anniversary celebration of the Philippine Navy in Sangley Point, Cavite City, on Monday afternoon.

Unlike Vice President Leni Robredo and other former and current officials, the usually outspoken Duterte has stayed silent on the boat sinking incident nearly a week after Lorenzana exposed it on Independence Day, June 12.

The incident – where a Chinese ship rammed, sank, and abandoned 22 fishermen of Filipino fishing boat Gem-Ver in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) – happened on June 9.

Duterte has drawn flak for his silence on the issue, which involves Recto Bank – an area that belongs to the Philippines but is claimed by China – and the Chinese government, which Duterte's government has cozied up to in exchange for loans and grants.

Cusi claimed Duterte is silent because he is "studying" the matter. – Rappler.com

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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