MANILA - Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Monday that Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua will be asked to go to Malacañang as part of an official probe into the Recto Bank (Reed Bank) incident.
Lorenzana confirmed the news on the sidelines of the anniversary celebrations of the Philippine Navy.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles earlier denied that Zhao would be summoned to the palace.
The Defense secretary's announcement comes after President Rodrigo Duterte broke his silence on the sinking of the Filipino fishing boat, and advised the public to wait and listen to China’s side.
Lorenzana, who broke the news about the sinking of the Filipino fishing boat, meanwhile explained that the government had started to entertain doubts that the Chinese vessel intentionally rammed the FB GEM-VER.
"Kasi nga nagkakaroon tayo ng konting doubt kung ano ba talaga ang nangyari dun. Unang natanggap ko nun kaya ako nagpalabas is binangga. Nabangga nga talaga pero was it intentional or not, meron nang doubt ngayon eh kung intentional o hindi," Lorenzana said.
(That's because we are starting to have doubts about what really happened there. What I got first and what I announced was that it was intentional. There was a collision but whether it was intentional or not, there is doubt now if it was intentional or not.)
Lorenzana does not believe that the ramming of the Filipino fishing boat was sanctioned by China.
"Let us put the incident into its proper perspective. Hindi naman ito sponsored by a state na gagawin nila yun eh, kasi ang claim ng... initially, ang unang lumabas sa kanila is aksidente. (This was not sponsored by a state, that they would do this, because the claim initially, what they said first is this was an accident.)
When asked to clarify if he then no longer believed the Chinese vessel in question could be part of China's maritime militia, Lorenzana said: "Siguro hindi na kasi ano eh, hintayin na lang natin yung ano. I will not answer anymore question kasi meron pa tayong gagawing inquiry."
He added that while the official investigation takes place, government will extend assistance to the crew and owner of the GEM-VIR1, acknowledging that they had lost their means of livelihood.
- Reports from Chiara Zambrano, Pia Gutierrez and Joyce Balancio, ABS-CBN News