A joint Cabinet cluster meeting will be held at the Palace today to tackle the latest tension in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) following the sinking of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese vessel, Malacañang said on Sunday.
“There is a joint Cabinet cluster meeting of the Economic Development cluster and the Security, Justice and Peace cluster,” Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said.
Nograles made the statement after an initial confusion on whether President Rodrigo Duterte will call for the meeting after he delivers a speech at the 121st anniversary celebration of the Philippine Navy.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Sunday morning that Duterte will call for a special Cabinet meeting. This was promptly denied by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.
“No meeting,” Medialdea said in a text message, telling reporters that it was “canceled.”
Lorenzana said he has not been informed about the changes in the meeting, and would proceed to it “unless told otherwise.”
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo, for his part, said: “No info on that yet.”
The mayor of San Jose in Occidental Mindoro told CNN Philippines that Duterte would also meet with the captain and cook of the Filipino fishing boat that was rammed and abandoned by the Chinese vessel.
Mayor Romulo Festin said he received instructions to bring Capt. Junel Insigne and the boat’s cook, Richard Blaza, to Manila. Blaza was the only crew member who was awake and saw the Chinese vessel hit the the fishing boat, F/B GEM-VER, around midnight of June 9.
The two were to be brought to Manila by officials of the provincial Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources for the meeting with Duterte.
Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, meanwhile, hinted about the possibility of conducting a visit to the hometown of the 22 fishermen in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, who survived the collision.
Last week, the country’s Defense department announced that a Chinese vessel collided with a Filipino vessel near the Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea.
The Palace blasted the Chinese vessel for abandoning the 22 distressed Filipino fishermen after the collision. But the Chinese government remained firm in its position that no “hit-and-run” incident took place in the disputed seas
China said the vessel’s captain tried to rescue the Filipino fishermen but “was afraid of being besieged by other Filipino fishing boats.”
The Chinese government also said that the Chinese vessel “sailed away from the scene” when they found out that the Filipino fishermen were rescued by a Vietnamese vessel.
The 22 Occidental Mindoro-based fishermen said they spent hours floating in the water waiting for help.
According to the fishermen, they were abandoned and left floating in the sea for hours after the Chinese vessel crashed into their boat. But China’s Embassy in Manila said the Yuenmaibinyu 42212 was “besieged” by some seven to eight Filipino boats. As the Chinese vessel evaded the boats, it accidentally hit the F/B GEM-VER. The crew of the Chinese vessel did not help the Filipino fishermen who fell into the water for fear of “being besieged by other Filipino fishing boats.”
But Insigne said the F/B GEM-VER was anchored as he and his men were already resting when they were hit. The Chinese vessel immediately sailed away, abandoning them as their boat began to sink, he said.
READ: Chinese boat sinks PH vessel, 22 Pinoys rescuedREAD: China boat did it, says BeijingREAD: PH, China told: ‘Hold your fire’
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