Duterte may not attend cluster meeting to likely discuss Recto Bank incident
President Rodrigo Duterte may not attend the joint cluster meeting of his Cabinet secretaries on Monday which will “likely” discuss the collision between Filipino and Chinese fishing vessels in Recto Bank, according to Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles.
In a radio interview on Sunday, Nograles said two cluster meetings are being scheduled for Monday.
He also clarified that it may only be called “Cabinet meeting” if President Rodrigo Duterte requested it.
“It’s up to his (Duterte) availability… we are scheduling a meeting which is a cluster meeting because it involves two clusters, the cluster of (Defense) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and the cluster of (Finance) Secretary Sonny Dominguez (III). So that’s the Security, Justice and Peace cluster together with Economic Development cluster,” he said.
“I don’t think he can attend because his schedule for tomorrow is full. He has a set appointment or agenda,” Nograles added.
Duterte is expected to attend the 121st Philippine Navy Anniversary in Sangley Point, Cavite City.
Nograles said the issue on the Recto Bank should undergo diplomatic process.
The result of the cluster meetings will be reported to Duterte so he can decide what will be the country’s policy and stand on the issue.
“So what will happen after the meeting is maybe the different secretaries will get the clearer picture of what happened and what are the next step will be. We will also have a protocol on who will give a statement because ultimately whatever happens in the meeting will be given to President Duterte,” he said.
“He will process whatever it is that we have agreed upon or what will be our recommendation for him. Ultimately, it is the president who will decide,” he added.
Nograles said they are only conducting the cluster meetings for them to be on the same page on what happened in the incident.
He told the public to “not fan the flames” and let the process work.
“That’s why we have these so-called diplomatic channels. On the side of the Philippines is the Department of Foreign Affairs and on the side of China is their foreign affairs secretary… They should be the one to discuss these things… We have these diplomatic protocols. We need diplomacy, we need the experts on diplomacy to discuss this (issue),” said Nograles.
“We ask the public, do not fan the flames, let the process work. We have process and that is an internationally recognized process. We have protocols, procedures but rest assured that our government is protecting the citizen’s rights and wellbeing,” he added.
On when will the president give his stand, Nograles said it’s up to him to decide.
“I’m sure the president right now is gathering as much as needed information he can. We all know that he has an access to classified information that we cannot access. Over and above that, on whatever the result of the meeting tomorrow, we will rely on him and the president will be the one to decide on what will be our policy, our stand, our statement. On when, he will be the one to decide also,” he said.
He said it’s up to the Department of Foreign Affairs to announce what will be the next step or who will be the responsible on the incident.
“Let’s not be rush to judge whether they are not following (protocols) or not respecting it... Let us leave to the DFA to announce it,” said Nograles.
Asked if the president will meet the captain of the abandoned fishermen, Nograles said he has no information.
Early Sunday morning, some cabinet secretaries gave conflicting statement on whether Duterte wants to hold a special meeting on the incident or not.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said the meeting was “cancelled” after Defense Secretary Lorenza and Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi “confirmed” it.
Duterte has yet to release his stand on the issue after 22 fishermen were abandoned by a Chinese fishing vessel which allegedly rammed their boat near Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea.
On a statement Saturday, the Chinese Embassy in Manila denied that the Chinese vessel “hit and run” the Filipino fishing ship.
It said the vessel was suddenly besieged by seven or eight Filipino fishing boats and during the evacuation, the Chinese vessel failed to shun one of the boats and its steel cable on the lighting grid of larboard bumped into the Filipino pilothouse.
“The Chinese captain tried to rescue the Filipino fishermen, but was afraid of being besieged by other Filipino fishing boats. Therefore, having confirmed the fishermen from the Filipino boat were rescued on board of other Filipino fishing boats, (Yuemaobinyu) 42212 sailed away,” the statement said. Ella Dionisio/DMS