Palace won't summon Chinese envoy over PH boat sinking

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 18) — President Rodrigo Duterte will not summon Ambassador Zhao Jinhua over a Chinese vessel's ramming of a Filipino fishing boat, Malacañang said Tuesday.

"The President, we feel, is not inclined to do that," Presidential Spokesman Sal Panelo said. He added no invitation has been sent to Zhao.

The denial comes after two Cabinet Secretaries — Defense Chief Delfin Lorenzana and Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol — confirmed the envoy was summoned by Duterte on Tuesday.

Duterte on Monday finally broke his silence on the incident. He said China's side deserves to be heard, too. He also dismissed the incident as "a little maritime accident."

The Chinese vessel hit Filipino fishing boat (F/B) GEM-VER which was anchored near Recto Bank on June 9, causing it to founder. The 22 Filipino fishermen said the Chinese crew abandoned them as they struggled to stay afloat in the cold water for almost three hours before a Vietnamese fishing boat rescued them. China said it was an accident as the Chinese vessel was trying to flee seven to eight Filipino boats that "besieged" it.

The incident has elicited condemnation in the Philippines and criticisms for Duterte's soft approach to the issue.

Filipino diplomats brought up the incident before the International Maritime Organization and at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

A Philippine statement at the IMO "drew attention to the fact that the Filipino crew of the fishing vessel were callously abandoned to the elements on the rough seas and would have perished were it not for the assistance from the crew of a Vietnamese vessel," according to a press release posted by Saturday by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin said.

On Monday, Locsin also called on UN members to enforce their duty under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to render assistances to persons in distress at sea. In a speech at the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the entry into force of UNCLOS at the UN headquarters, he said "it is a felony to abandon people in distress, especially when we cause the distress."