Duterte seeks sanctions vs. Chinese crew over Recto Bank incident

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 30)— Despite an apology from the ship’s owner, President Rodrigo Duterte has called on the Chinese government to sanction the crew of the vessel that hit and sank a Filipino fishing boat in the country’s waters in June.

Duterte, during his bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday, urged China's officials to “file appropriate sanctions” against the crew over the Recto Bank allision that left 22 Filipino fishermen floating in the open seas.

“I reiterate our desire for the filing or application of appropriate sanctions against the Chinese crew in the interest of achieving closure, manifesting good faith, and demonstrating China's (resolve) to prevent a repeat of the incident,” the President said in his statement, which was relayed by Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo to reporters on Friday.

“I note that your side has recognized and confirmed the responsibility of the Chinese fishing crew and appreciate China's readiness to provide the necessary compensation for our fishermen who almost lost their lives at sea. This is a step in the right direction,” Duterte said.

The Chinese shipowner, through a letter sent to the Philippine Embassy in Beijing on August 26, has apologized for the June 9 Recto Bank incident, calling it an “accidental collision” that “caused damage to a Philippine boat.”

The apology letter released by the Foreign Affairs Department failed to mention the Chinese crew's abandonment of the fishermen who were forced to float in the open sea for hours before they were rescued by a Vietnamese vessel, a situation that was the subject of a protest by the Philippines. The memorandum said "it was fortunate that there were no casualties."

The Philippine government on Friday said it is ready to assist the Filipino fishermen should they decide to file monetary claim and criminal case against the Chinese crew.