Manila rejects joint probe of fishing boat sinking with China

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 21 2019 08:58 AM | Updated as of Jun 21 2019 12:45 PM

MANILA (UPDATE) – The Philippines will investigate separately from China the sinking of a Filipino fishing boat after it was hit by a Chinese vessel in disputed waters, Manila's chief diplomat said Friday.

The matter is "beyond civilian agencies' remit and falls well within" the jurisdiction of the Philippines' foreign affairs, defense and national security departments, said Foreign Affairs Sec. Teodoro Locsin Jr.

"There will be no joint investigation. China and Philippines will conduct their respective investigations," Locsin said on Twitter.

Beijing said Thursday a joint investigation would allow the Philippines and China to "exchange respective initial findings and properly handle the matter." Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra also supported a joint probe.

Locsin also said the foreign affairs department "will act on my view and no one else’s."

Manila accused the Chinese boat crew of abandoning the Filipino fishermen at sea after the incident near Reed Bank in the West Philippine Sea on June 9. A Vietnamese ship rescued the Filipinos.

China has said the incident was not intentional and that the Chinese vessel tried to rescue the Filipinos but were allegedly besieged by other Philippine boats.

The incident happened within the country's exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea, which China claims in near entirety.

Malacañang, which has sought enhanced ties with China despite the unresolved dispute, has downplayed the incident, casting doubt on the Filipino fishermen's narration that their boat was rammed.

JOINT PROBE WOULD MEAN 'WHITEWASH'

A security analyst, meanwhile, warned that a joint probe would lead to a whitewash of the incident.

Joint investigations are “good steps in general,” said security analyst and former Magdalo party-list Rep. Ashley Acedillo, but he warned that doing so with an authoritarian state like China may be an exception.

“They are good especially if you want to establish facts on both sides, but if you’re talking about China as the other party in the joint investigation, we see here a potential for conflicts,” Acedillo told ANC’s Early Edition.

There should be clear ground rules with China, he said, or else "the joint investigation will become another avenue for China to whitewash."