Duterte: No more joint inquiry into Recto Bank incident; 3rd party probe possible
President Rodrigo Duterte said on Monday there could be no more joint investigation with China into the boat sinking incident at Recto Bank in the South China Sea.
Instead, the probe could be conducted by a third party marine board, which would satisfy the "requirement of fair play and due process."
"If they don't like, it's okay," Dutere told reporters in an interview after watching the screening of a Filipino movie about the government's war on illegal drugs at SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said earlier Duterte wanted a joint inquiry with China over the June 9 ramming and sinking incident of Gem-Ver 1, a Philippine fishing vessel, allegedly by a Chinese trawler.
The Chinese trawler allegedly abandoned the 22 Filipino crew members after the incident.
But the planned joint investigation drew criticisms, including from some senators, saying this could undermine Philippine control over its claimed territories in the South China Sea.
Asked if he agreed to have a third party to conduct the probe, Duterte said, "We'll it's going to be a marine board or inquiry, whatever satisfies the requirement of fair play and due process, due process that everybody should be heard."
"Fair play is that there is no one that is under suspicion of siding with the other and you can only do that if you have the board," he said.
Duterte said if the investigation would only be conducted by the Philippines or China itself, there could be biases.
"You know if I'll do (the probe), it’s always biased even if it’s not. On the other hand, if they do the report, it would always be according to the theory of the incident. So for us, it’s prejudiced. Nothing will happen," he said.
But he added that on the part of the Philippines, its investigation is about to be completed.
"I already have the preliminary reports of the Coast Guard and the Navy, okay. But the official report has yet to be prepared and given to me for publication to the people," he said.
"But if they want another investigation, it's fine with me. Or they can always also investigate on their own and we can confront each other over our evidence," Duterte said.
Duterte said he was not belittling the incident.
"Little in the sense that it did not result to any confrontation, this is not to belittle anything. There was damage but luckily nobody died, but this is a small thing for anybody to bring in the gray ships. The gray ships are the war ships," he explained.
While the Philippines has been claiming the Recto Bank, Duterte also noted that China is also claiming the area.
"For China, it happened within their jurisdiction; for us, within our jurisdiction because we have two conflicting claims of ownership," he said. Celerina Monte/DMS