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Palace to sunken boat owner: ‘We can never be slaves to anyone’

June 17, 2019 - Monday 5:06 PM by PNA

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MANILA -- Malacañang rejected on Monday the statement made by the owner of a Filipino fishing boat, which was allegedly rammed and abandoned by a Chinese fishing vessel, that Filipinos have turned into “slaves” of China.

In an interview with reporters in Occidental Mindoro, Felix dela Torre, the owner of F/B Gem-Ver1 which was allegedly abandoned near the Recto Bank (Reed Bank) in the West Philippine Sea said he felt like Filipinos had no right over their own territory.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, however, refuted dela Torre’s claim, noting that the Philippines can never be slaves to any foreign power, including China.

“The response is we can never be slaves to anyone. Not to anyone -- that includes every country in the world,” Panelo said in a Palace briefing.

Panelo said that although Chinese fishing vessels are not allowed to fish anywhere near the Recto Bank, he would rather wait for results of an investigation to confirm whether Chinese fishermen were indeed fishing in the area.

“Basta teritorya natin at nandun sila, mali ‘yun siyempre (As long as it’s our territory and they’re fishing there, then that’s wrong),” Panelo said.

“Hindi pa natin alam kung nagpi-fish sila doon (But we don’t really know whether they were fishing there),” he added.

Last week, Panelo released a strong statement condemning the alleged abandonment of Filipino fishermen and asking the Chinese government to sanction the Chinese crew who failed to help them.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said his agency has already filed a diplomatic protest against China.

The Chinese Embassy, however, denied the abandonment and instead claimed that their vessel was “besieged” by several Filipino fishing boats.

"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, 42212 sailed away from the scene," the embassy said in a statement.

Following the statement released by the Chinese Embassy, Panelo said that the Duterte administration will consider both the results of investigation being conducted by the Philippines and China.

Panelo also clarified that the Palace is not doubting the statements made by the Filipino fishermen who claimed they were abandoned at sea.

“Not doubting but we want to know the facts since there is a contrary claim (from China),” Panelo said.

“That was an initial outrage based on the initial findings and the outrage continues until such time that we’re proven wrong,” he added.

In the meantime, Panelo said that Palace will take the Filipino fishermen’s statement at “face value” until proven otherwise by other testimonials and proof.

The Reed Bank incident, which took place on June 9, is the latest issue in relation to the dispute between the Philippines and China over the West Philippine Sea.

On July 12, 2016, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) released its decision in favor of the Philippines which nullifies China's nine-dash line map which covers nearly the whole of WPS.