MANILA (UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte will seek China’s assurance on the safety of Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea following the allision of a Filipino fishing boat and a Chinese ship, Malacañang said Tuesday.
Duterte told the Cabinet Monday that he would discuss the matter during bilateral meetings with China, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said.
“The President wanted China’s assurance that the rights and safety of our fisherfolks are guaranteed,” Panelo said.
In a press briefing, Panelo said the President will seek “continuing assurance” from China on the safety of Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea, which Beijing also claims for its own.
Panelo also allayed concerns of Filipino fishermen over the West Philippine Sea. “Safe ang ating mga fishermen. Moreover meron naman tayong mga Coast Guard to protect them,” he said.
The potentially oil-rich Recto Bank is inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The area has been in the headlines in recent weeks following the June 9 allision of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese ship, which prompted a diplomatic protest from the Philippines
Twenty-two Filipino fishermen were left at sea by the Chinese crew after sinking their boat and were later rescued by a Vietnamese vessel.
Duterte has downplayed the incident as he seeks to avoid ruffling feathers in Beijing, prompting outrage from critics who want the Philippines to stand up to what they claim to be Chinese aggression