MANILA – Filipinos must believe their countrymen first before foreigners, a former diplomat said Wednesday, as authorities investigated the alleged ramming of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese vessel.
President Rodrigo Duterte had described the incident in waters disputed by China and the Philippines as a "maritime incident" that should not be blown out of proportion.
"Kababayan muna bago paniwalaan ang banyaga," former Philippine Ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Wilfrido Villacorta told ANC’s Headstart.
(We should first believe our fellow Filipinos before foreigners.)
"If we say, ‘oh we should believe the Chinese vessel that rammed the Filipino banca,’ whose side are you with?" he told ANC's Headstart.
The Filipino ship captain, Junel Insigne, claimed that the Chinese ship rammed their boat while the cook, Richard Blaza, was unsure whether the ramming was intentional, according to Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol.
"I’m not saying kahit na mali tayo at tama ang kabila eh kakampihan natin ang sarili natin, pero malinaw, less educated as they are, powerless as they are, alam nila ang mali at tama," said Villacorta.
(I’m not saying that we should defend ourselves even if we are wrong, but it was clear, less educated as they are, powerless as they are, they knew what was right and wrong.)
Piñol said Blaza was most reliable witness since he was the only one awake at the time of the incident. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who initially expressed outrage over the incident, on Monday said the government started entertaining doubts that the Chinese ship intended to bump the Filipino boat.
The Chinese ship abandoned the 22 Filipino fishermen at sea after sinking their boat. The fishermen were rescued by a Vietnamese fishing vessel.
The Chinese embassy in Manila said the captain of the Chinese ship tried to save the Filipinos but was "afraid of being besieged by other Filipino fishing boats."
Villacorta said Manila should bring up the Reed Bank incident during the upcoming ASEAN Summit in Thailand.