MANILA – The captain of the Filipino fishing boat rammed last week by a Chinese vessel in Reed Bank (Recto Bank) apologized to President Rodrigo Duterte Wednesday after his comments made it appear he backed out of a supposed meeting with the chief executive.
Wearing a tank top, F/B GEM-VER Capt Junel Insigne, an Occidental Mindoro native, faced the media and said he was not aware that it was Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol, not Duterte, who asked to meet him in Manila.
Insigne earlier this week said he would meet Duterte to demand accountability after a Chinese vessel rammed his boat and left him and his 21 crew members in open waters.
But Insigne said he backed out of the meeting because he suddenly felt ill.
With Piñol beside him, Insigne apologized to Duterte because his statement made it appear he ditched the President.
“Humihingi ako ng paumanhin sa ating mahal na presidente, na hindi po pala ako pinatawag niya kundi si Secretary Piñol po ang nagpatawag sa amin. Hindi po ako natuloy, umatras ako dahil masama ang pakiramdam ko,” Insigne said in a press conference in Occidental Mindoro.
Insigne also appealed to Duterte to help them obtain justice, even as the chief executive downplayed the incident, much to the dismay of the captain.
Piñol said Insigne clarified to him that he was not invited by Malacañang to meet the President.
The agriculture chief said he sought clarification from Insigne on the matter because "it put the President in a bad light. Para bang inisnab niya ang presidente, eh wala namang invitation talaga (It appeared he ditched the president even if there was no invitation at all)."
“So hindi po totoo yung balita na mayroong imbitasyon ang pangulo na makipagusap sa kanila. This was a manufactured statement. By whom? I don’t know,” Piñol said.
“[Insigne] admitted na medyo may mga statement siya na ayon sa kanya hindi niya alam na nasabi niya.”
The Palace had also denied a meeting was set between Duterte and the fishermen.
The Chinese embassy in Manila earlier said the captain of the Chinese ship tried to save the Filipinos but was "afraid of being besieged by other Filipino fishing boats."
Piñol said whether the Chinese intentionally rammed the Filipinos or not is a matter that will be investigated. What’s clear, he said, was that the Chinese abandoned the Filipinos in open sea.
“We denounce the act of the Chinese vessel in abandoning the fishermen in distress. Regardless of whether it was accidental or intentional, there is no justification to the act of the Chinese vessel to abandon the Filipino fishermen who were already in distress,” Piñol said.
Piñol also agreed that Recto Bank, which is within the Philippines' 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone, must be exploited only by Filipinos.