Print Version    Email to Friend
Duterte’s reaction to fishing boat sinking slammed

MANILA (UCAN): Catholic bishops in the Philippines have criticised the government’s dismissal of the sinking of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese vessel as a mere “maritime incident.”
 
Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, described the incident as a “little maritime incident” that politicians had made worse because of irresponsible statements.
 
Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila, said the government should stand up for Filipino fishermen after the Chinese vessel reportedly rammed the fishing boat on June 9 (Sunday Examiner, June 23).
 
“The government has a duty to protect its citizens and its territory. It should not allow itself to be bullied and let its people suffer,” the bishop said in a statement.
 
However, Bishop Pabillo said the incident should not be treated lightly because it was “a serious matter that should be resolved and not treated as a mere incident.”
 
Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon, said the president’s statement showed a bias toward China, adding that “Duterte is selective in dispensing justice.”
 
He said, “This is a sign that his judgment cannot be relied upon on serious moral and social issues.”
 
Various groups have slammed pronouncements made by the president and government officials in downplaying the sinking.
 
The Philippine boat was anchored in disputed waters near Reed Bank when it was hit by a Chinese trawler and sank at around midnight on June 9.
 
Reports said the crew members were thrown into the water, but instead of stopping to help the Filipino fishermen, the Chinese trawler sailed away.
 
Defense secretary, Delfin Lorenzana, who at first condemned the incident, backtracked on June 19 saying that what happened was “maybe an accident.”
 
He said, “I think it’s just an accident, based on information we got from the crew. Maybe the other side did not intend to bump them.”
 
The Philippines’ Foreign Affairs Department has filed a diplomatic protest and has brought the incident to the attention of the United Nations International Maritime Organisation.
 
Duterte, however, called for calm, calling it “just a collision” of two boats.
 
A Chinese foreign ministry official earlier also described the incident as “an accidental collision between two fishing boats at sea.”
 
Philippine opposition politicians condemned the statements, with one senator saying Duterte’s statement was “very self-limiting” and “insulting” to the Filipino people.
 
Senator Risa Hontiveros said the president’s remarks showed him as someone who was “fearless and cruel against the poor, uncouth and disrespectful to women and democracy advocates, but sheepish when it comes to China.”
 
Relations between the Philippines and China have historically been cordial, but have suffered in recent years due to the worsening South China Sea dispute.
 
When Duterte came to power in 2016, he tried to remedy relations at the expense of its relationship with the United States, a longtime ally.
 
China, meanwhile, aims for greater influence over the Philippines and the region, in general, while combating American influence, according to observers.

More from this section