MANILA - Malacañang dismissed Thursday comments of former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario to hold China accountable on the collision of its vessel and Filipino fishing boat.
Del Rosario, who pursued Manila' winning arbitration case against Beijing during his time as top diplomat, said China's leadership must be held liable for the incident which endangered the lives of 22 Filipino fishermen.
"He doesn't have to tell us what to do. We know what to do. Dapat ginawa nila 'yan noon nung sila 'yung andiyan pa (They should have done that while they were still in office)," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said during a Palace press briefing.
The Filipino fishermen were left off Recto (Reed) Bank in the West Philippine Sea Sunday after their boat sank in what the Philippine military described as a "hit-and-run" by a Chinese vessel. The Armed Forces' Western Command has said the incident was accidental.
Del Rosario, in comments released Thursday, said "we need to find a way to hold China's leadership accountable," calling it "the neighborhood bully."
Malacañang had called on Beijing to sanction the Chinese ship crew for abandoning the Filipino fishermen, in what it described as an act that is "uncivilized as it is outrageous."
"Whether it's a form of bullying or not, it's outrageous, it's barbaric, it's uncivilized and we're condemning it," Panelo said.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said Thursday the Philippines has lodged a diplomatic protest against China over the incident.
Del Rosario along with former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales and affected fishermen brought Chinese President Xi Jinping before the International Criminal Court in March for crimes against humanity over alleged acts in the South China Sea.
China claims nearly all of the resource-rich waters, building islands and fortifying military detachments as it ignored a July 2016 ruling that invalidated its 9-dash line claim.
Del Rosario was at the lead of initiating such legal action against China in 2013, when he was top diplomat of then President Benigno Aquino III.