MANILA- President Rodrigo Duterte still wants to sanction the Chinese crew that left Filipino fishermen at sea even after Manila received an apology from the shipowner.
While Duterte recognized the apology as a "step in the right direction," he asserted the need to impose penalties on the Chinese crew as a sign of "good faith" on the part of Beijing.
The Philippine leader made the call during his bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Thursday night where he asserted Manila's rights over the West Philippine Sea.
“I reiterate our desire for the filing or application of appropriate sanctions against the Chinese crew in the interest of achieving closure, manifesting good faith and demonstrating China’s resort to prevent a repeat of the incident,” Duterte said, as quoted by his spokesman Salvador Panelo to reporters on Friday.
The unnamed Chinese company, through an association, apologized for the June 9 incident after its vessel bumped into an anchored Filipino fishing boat near the Recto (Reed) Bank in the West Philippine Sea.
The Chinese crew left the Filipino fishermen at sea. The Filipino fishers were later rescued by a Vietnamese ship. Beijing's embassy in Manila earlier denied that the Chinese crew abandoned the Filipino fishermen.
While the Chinese company issued an apology, it however, maintained that the incident was "accidental."
Panelo added that the Philippine government is prepared to help the Filipino fishermen if they decide to pursue criminal charges against the Chinese crew.
"Of course, the government will always help," Panelo said.