The Philippines on Friday rejected a proposal by Beijing for a joint investigation into the sinking of a Filipino fishing boat by a larger Chinese vessel in the disputed South China Sea, as Manila insisted on interviewing the Chinese crew.
An investigation into the June 9 incident, in which the Chinese ship allegedly rammed into the anchored Filipino boat near Recto Bank and left its 22 crew members afloat in the sea, was within Manila’s sole jurisdiction but Beijing could carry out its own probe, Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said.
“There will be no joint investigation. China and Philippines will conduct their respective investigations,” Locsin said in a message posted on Twitter.
“If we come up with a joint investigation, the terms should be clear. China has to allow us access to interview their fishermen, or vice versa,” he added.
The top Philippine diplomat was responding to a statement from China’s foreign ministry a day earlier.
“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,” Lu Kang, the ministry’s spokesman, told a news conference in Beijing on Thursday.
He said China attached “great importance to friendly relations with the Philippines and safety of personnel at sea.”
Lu Kang also reiterated Beijing’s sympathy to “Filipino fishermen who were in distress after the accidental collision” between the two fishing boats.
“My question to China, we’re friends, but ... is it correct for China to declare ownership of an ocean?” Duterte said before leaving for the ASEAN summit in Thailand, according to DPA, the German news agency.
“It’s simple – can you claim an ocean as your own because tell me now, (and) I will also claim mine,” he added.
Politician blocked from entering Hong Kong
Among Filipino politicians who condemned the incident at sea was ex-Foreign Secretary Alberto del Rosario, who had lashed out at China as a country that could not be trusted.
On Friday, he was barred from entering Hong Kong, where immigration authorities stopped him from entering the territory to attend a business meeting.
Del Rosario and former ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales had filed a complaint in May against Chinese President Xi Jinping with the International Criminal Court over what they alleged was Beijing’s systematic plan to gain control of the South China Sea.
Morales was earlier barred from entering Hong Kong during a family trip, and unceremoniously turned back.
“I think it’s beginning to look like plain and simple harassment,” del Rosario said Friday.
Jeoffrey Maitem contributed to this report from Cotabato City, Philippines.