Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has finally commented on the controversial West Philippine Sea (WPS) boat collision, but not many were satisfied with his meek words. This includes politicians, netizens, and the captain of the very Philippine fishing boat involved in the incident, who all hoped the president stood up against China more.
In an emotional tweet, former Philippine National Police Chief Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson said that Duterte’s stance on the issue was heartbreaking.
“The president broke his silence and left us heartbroken,” Lacson wrote in a tweet earlier today. “He forgot to explore all resources available before exercising his last option of surrender.”
He said that the Philippines’ Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States is one “untapped weapon.”
“I am not suggesting WW3 (World War 3) but at least it can make China feel the balance of power in the WPS,” he said.
The president broke his silence and left us heartbroken. He forgot to explore all resources available before exercising his last option of surrender. The MDT is one yet untapped weapon. I am not suggesting WW3 but at least it can make China feel the balance of power in the WPS.
— PING LACSON (@iampinglacson) June 17, 2019
In a speech addressed to the Philippine Navy yesterday, the usually brash Duterte was calm when he downplayed the sinking of the Philippine fishing boat. He called it “just a collision of ships” and a “maritime incident” that we do not need to wage war over.
On June 9, Sunday, a Chinese trawler hit a Philippine fishing boat that was anchored near the Recto Bank (aka Reed Bank) in Palawan. The crew members of the Chinese vessel left 22 Filipino fishermen to fend for themselves in the water as their boat sank. The Filipinos were reportedly stranded for hours until they were saved by a Vietnamese boat.
The Chinese Embassy in Manila confirmed in a statement that the trawler was indeed from China but refused to call the incident a hit and run. It said that the Chinese vessel was allegedly “besieged” by seven to eight Filipino fishing boats and was trying to evacuate the area when it hit the boat. The Chinese crew members allegedly tried to rescue the Filipino fishermen but were afraid of being besieged by other Filipino fishing boats.
However, satellite data shows that this was not possible because the other fishing vessels in the area were too far away, Rappler reported.
Many Filipinos were immediately angered when the incident was made public during the Independence Day holiday last week. They were awaiting Duterte’s statement on the issue but it took him almost a week to break his silence.
Like Lacson, Senator Risa Hontiveros was disappointed with Duterte’s submissive reaction to the issue. She did not mince words in criticizing the president in a tweet yesterday.
“Your statement on the Recto Bank hit-&-run incident reveals a lot. Thank you for confirming who you truly are, Mr. Pres: violent & cruel towards the poor, foul-mouthed & obscene to women & democracy advocates, but feckless & spineless before China. Shame,” she said.
Your statement on the Recto Bank hit-&-run incident reveals a lot. Thank you for confirming who you truly are, Mr. Pres: violent & cruel towards the poor, foul-mouthed & obscene to women & democracy advocates, but feckless & spineless before China. Shame.https://t.co/yZlYteTOCj
— risa hontiveros (@risahontiveros) June 17, 2019
Junel Insigne, the captain of the fishing boat that was hit by the Chinese vessel, also expressed sadness over what Duterte said.
“I am sad because it seems that the move to ram us was just swept aside. What if many of us died?” he told ABS-CBN News in Filipino.
“I wanted to hear from him that the Chinese captain would be held accountable. I also hope the Chinese fishing there would be asked to leave because the incident may happen again next year.”
Insigne was supposed to meet with Duterte in Manila yesterday to tell the president about what happened, but the boat captain changed his mind after a special cabinet meeting to discuss the issue was canceled. He also decided not to recall the incident anymore because he was still traumatized by the event.
Many Filipinos also took to social media to slam Duterte’s statement.
“How dare Duterte dismiss the sinking of Filipino fishermen’s boat as just a maritime incident. If it was another country, he would threaten war but why is he no longer outspoken when it comes to China? ” Twitter user @iveronclarice asked.
How dare Duterte dismiss the sinking of Filipino fishermen’s boat as just a maritime incident. If it was another country, may pa threat na siya ng war pero bakit nawawala pagiging outspoken niya pag dating sa China? Tuta talaga
— clarice (@iveronclarice) June 17, 2019
@MK_Solanoy referenced how Duterte said that the Philippines should hear out China’s side of the story, and told the president to “stop pretending to be fair.”
“So what, the fishermen who almost drowned are lying now?” the netizen asked.
Duterte: it was a Maritime accident, China has the right to be heard
So ano sinungaling mga mangingisdang muntik na malunod?
Stop pretending to be fair! tanga na lang ang magsasabing patas ka lang.
— Marks (@MK_Solanoy) June 17, 2019
@ogie_rosa, on the other hand, talked about how Duterte and other government officials downplayed the incident and asked: “If we are not protected by our own government, who can we run to?”
PINOL: This is a simple maritime issue blown out of proportion.
CUSI: Napakabulok naman nung babangga, daplis lang?
DUTERTE: Dalawang bangka lang 'yan. Now, you create tension?
Kung hindi tayo mapoproteksyunan ng sarili nating gobyerno, kanino tayo tatakbo?
— Ogie Rosa (@ogie_rosa) June 17, 2019
Some netizens expressed their disappointment through memes. Many pointed out how Duterte is usually assertive in other issues but not when it comes to standing up to China.
Reddit user Hync’s meme shows how Duterte reacted like angry Hulk with regards to the Canadian garbage issue but was calm Hulk in addressing the ramming of the Chinese vessel.
Reddit user sunshinyanny’s post, on the other hand, shows a photo of Duterte sleeping beside a meme that represents the traumatized Filipino fishermen.
How do you feel about Duterte’s statement? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us @CoconutsManila.