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Aquino orders probe on sea incident

President Aquino has ordered an investigation into the reported ramming incident allegedly by a Chinese vessel that killed a Filipino fisherman adding that the government may file charges against the owner of said vessel once the investigation is completed.

“We are gathering all the necessary evidence — we are not accusing anybody at this point,” the President told reporters after the oath-taking ceremony of the new Liberal Party members in Benguet.

“Once we have gathered the necessary evidence, then if there was a ramming incident and iniwan yung mga tao sa dagat that is in clear violation of the laws governing the seas. We can go to the appropriate fora to file the necessary charges for justice for our fishermen,” the President said.

The President said that there is still an on-going operation to rescue four fishermen reported still missing. The government is giving assistance to the three fishermen who were hospitalized because of hypothermia.

The President also appealed to the public not to finger-point and accuse anybody to avoid complicating the already tense situation in the West Philippine Sea.

Reports said a Chinese vessel last week rammed a Philippine fishing boat north of the disputed West Philippine Sea killing a Filipino fisherman and leaving four others missing.

According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) the said vessel might have intentionally hit the fishing boat and left the Filipino fishermen at sea after the incident.

Although the Department of Foreign Affairs reported that there are no Chinese and Philippine vessels inside the Panatag Shoal, the President reiterated that he’ll send back coast guard ships in the contested area once the weather improves.

Meanwhile, businessman Manuel Pangilinan will have the government’s full backing regarding his plans to expand the consortium undertaking gas exploration in the Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea as long as he complies with government guidelines. Recto Bank is part of the territory disputed by the Philippines and China.

“This is a major project. There will be a lot of finances that are needed and it is incumbent upon him to source this financing also. So, so long as it complies with the terms and conditions as stipulated in the service contract, we have no issue with this venture,” the President said after he spearheaded the oath-taking ceremony of the new members of the Liberal Party members.

With regards to the concerns on the Philippines’s assertion of its sovereignty over the Recto Bank, the President said there should be no question about it because the Philippine government is the one issuing the service contract.

“It is our service contract. It is not a joint service contract. So Mr. Pangilinan will be undertaking the venture based on authorization coming from the Philippine government,” he said.