Duterte silent on PH boat sinking 'because he is studying'

OCCIDENTAL MINDORO, Philippines – A week after a Chinese vessel sank a Filipino fishing boat in the West Philippine Sea, President Rodrigo Duterte still has not released a statement on the issue, currently the focal point of Philippines-China relations.

According to Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, the President is still "studying" the incident.

"Pag-aaralan po namin ito. Si Pangulo, si Mayor Duterte, tahimik pinag-aaralan niyang mabuti dahil ayaw naman po niyang gumawa ng hakbang na hindi tama ang pinagbabasehang impormasyon," Cusi told fishermen of sunken Filipino Boat Gem-Ver in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, on Sunday, June 16.

(We are studying this. The President, Mayor Duterte, is silent because he is studying this. He doesn't want to take steps based on the wrong information.)

A native of Oriental Mindoro, Cusi is the Duterte Cabinet member assigned for the affairs of Mimaropa Region.

F/B Gem-Ver was sunk down by a Chinese ship near Recto Bank (Reed Bank) on June 9 in the West Philippine Sea on its 12th day sailing. After the Chinese ship rammed the Filipino boat's rear, it abandoned its fishermen to sink. The Filipinos were rescued after spotting a Vietnamese fishing boat around 5 miles away from the wreckage.

While the President is studying, the Armed Forces of the Philippines has said the ramming was "far from accidental," and is no ordinary maritime incident.

China has claimed that its ship was trying to rescue the fishermen but were "besieged" by 7 to 8 Filipino fishing boats. The Filipino boat's captain and its crew, however, refuted the Asian giant's claim, saying that it was only them in the area. (READ: Captain of abandoned PH boat: 'Lumubog nga kami, kami pa ang aatake?')

The President's silence comes as he pursues warming ties with China as part of his goal of achieving an "independent foreign policy." – Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.