WASHINGTON, DC—Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez said President Rodrigo Duterte is treading carefully with China following an allision involving a Philippine fishing boat and a suspected Chinese militia vessel.
"The President will do the right thing for the country. At this point, he may just be cautiously moving about this whole relationship with China," he said during a diplomatic reception at the Kennedy Center. "So that all the work that’s been done the past 2 and half years to 3 years will not go in vain."
Romualdez said the Philippines is also beefing up its maritime capability to defend itself from external threats.
Two new missile armed warships—BRP Jose Rizal and BRP Antonio Luna—are expected to be added to the country's arsenal as early as 2020.
"These frigates are completely equipped with electronic warfare capability and will be used to protect our economic zone and support maritime patrol operations… We have also recently signed contract for the purchase of 16 Blackhawk helicopters from the US," he said.
US Undersecretary of State for Management Brian Joseph Bulatao said the US government continues to support the stabilization efforts in the disputed South China Sea, with over $340 million of foreign military aid in the last several years.
"These funds help the Philippines monitor and protect maritime interest in response to China’s destabilizing efforts and actions in the South China Sea, while modernizing its equipment, personnel and security systems," he said.
Meanwhile, some Filipino-Americans were outraged by the allision where 22 Filipino fishermen were abandoned at sea.
"That’s like if you’re driving a compact in a freeway and you’re hit by a Mack truck and they just leave you at the side of the road," Joshua Ang Price said.
"I think there should be a formal apology and I think there should be reparations for those fishermen and to their families and to the Philippine government as well."
The Philippine government has filed a diplomatic protest against China, calling for investigation and sanction to the crew of the Chinese ship.
However, China downplayed the incident, which it said was an "ordinary maritime accident." - Report from Don Tagala, ABS-CBN News
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