President Rodrigo Duterte thanked the Vietnamese fishermen who rescued Filipino fishermen who were allegedly abandoned near the Recto Bank (Reed Bank) in the West Philippine Sea after being rammed by a Chinese vessel.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Duterte brought this matter up during the 34th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit in Bangkok, Thailand on June 23, 2019.
“President Duterte took the occasion to thank the captain and crew of the Vietnamese fishing vessel who saved our fishermen near Recto Bank, stating that this act of kindness and compassion will always be remembered by the Philippines and its people,” Panelo said in a statement.
“He expressed his sincere gratitude to Vietnam through Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc,” he added.
Amid criticisms that Duterte has taken a tame approach to China’s aggression, Panelo said his remarks underscored that “the President Duterte is not beholden to or afraid of any foreign country.”
“He said that he is confident in articulating in clear and unequivocal terms the position of the Philippines as regards its interests before the global stage,” Panelo said.
Panelo also pointed out that Duterte will always assert the country’s sovereignty.
“Today’s gathering has established the guiding philosophy of the President: Respect for the rule of law, and recognition of the sovereign equality of all nations as well,” Panelo said.
Aside from thanking the Vietnamese fishermen, Duterte also expressed disappointment over the delay in the negotiations for a Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea.
“The Chief Executive explained that the longer the delay for an early conclusion of the COC, the higher the probability of maritime incidents happening and the greater the chance for miscalculations that may spiral out of control,” Panelo said.
Panelo, meanwhile, assured that the Philippines, as country coordinator for ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations, together with fellow ASEAN member-states, will continue to push for the full and effective implementation of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.
He said Duterte also urged ASEAN to remain united in protecting principles of international law.
Duterte also expressed his support for the Philippines to adopt the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific to reaffirm ASEAN’s strategic role and the vision of a closely integrated Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions, he added. (Azer Parrocha, PNA)