Manila, Philippines – President Benigno S. Aquino III refused to blame China for the alleged collision between its ship and a local fishing boat that led to the death of a Filipino near Panatag Shoal until a thorough investigation is completed.
The President ordered authorities to probe the sea mishap, including verifying the identity of the vessel involved, and then file the necessary charges to obtain “justice” for the fishermen.
Saddened by the death of the Filipino fisherman, the President acknowledged that the reportedly collision may be “actionable” because it could have violated international laws on the sea.
“We are gathering all of the necessary evidence. We are not accusing anybody at this point in time,” Aquino said in a press conference after leading the oathtaking of 300 new Liberal Party (LP) members from the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) in La Trinidad, Benguet.
“Once you have gathered the necessary evidence, then if there was a ramming incident and you left the victims at sea, that’s a clear violation of the laws governing the seas. That is actionable. We can go to the appropriate fora to file the necessary charges for justice for our fishermen,” he added.
Aquino said the official investigation into the sea accident that affected the fishermen would determine “who is at fault.”
“Then after all of this investigation, then that tells us where we will proceed. For now, let’s not blame Peter, John, Mary or anyone while there is no evidence yet. We might only muddle the situation,” the President added.
For now, Aquino said the government has started efforts to rescue and save the four missing fishermen following the collision.
He noted that the three fishermen injured in the incident are also “being taken cared of” by the Department of Social Welfare and Development. “They are in the hospital, they are suffering from hypothermia. There’s a fourth one that died, sadly. We are rendering assistance to the three that are already hospitalized,” he said.
Aquino said he planned to visit the injured fishermen recuperating in a Pangasinan hospital after attending the LP convention in Benguet. But he said he would still wait for the go-signal of the Presidential Security Group “if there are ready to receive me.”
He said the fishermen have not yet given any statement to authorities since they are suffering from hypothermia or rapid loss of body warmth. “If I will visit them, I might only disturb them. I may not also be able to talk to them so there is no point,” he said. (Genalyn D. Kabiling)