MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - China on Thursday proposed a joint investigation into the Reed Bank incident involving one of its vessels and a Filipino boat.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said Beijing will continue to investigate the incident and communicate with Manila.
"To find a proper solution, we suggest a joint investigation at an early date so the two sides can exchange respective initial findings and properly handle the matter through friendly consultations based on mutually-recognized investigation results," he said in a press briefing.
"Once again, I would like to offer sympathy to the Filipino fishermen who were in distress after the accidental collision of a Chinese and a Filipino fishing vessel in Liyue Tan, Nansha."
Malacañang, in a statement, said President Rodrigo Duterte welcomed China's proposal.
"We will await a formal communication from the Chinese Embassy," Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles earlier said a joint probe was being considered by the government.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Manila should pursue the joint investigation.
"This joint inquiry may also serve as the forum wherein accountabilities may be determined and allocated, and restitution or reparation, if due, may be effected," he said.
A Filipino fishing boat anchored near Reed Bank in the West Philippine Sea sank after getting rammed by a Chinese ship on June 9. The 22 crewmen were left at sea and got rescued by fishermen from Vietnam.
China, through its embassy in Manila, denied that its men abandoned the Filipino fishermen, saying the captain of the Chinese ship tried to save them but was "afraid of being besieged by other Filipino fishing boats."
A maritime law expert, however, said satellite data contradicted China's claim.
Duterte called for calm over the sinking, which he dubbed as a "maritime incident."
The incident happened within the Philippines 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea, which is being claimed almost entirely by China.