Del Rosario: China can’t be trusted

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 24) — Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said China could not be trusted, amid a push for a joint probe on the ramming of a Chinese vessel into a Filipino fishing boat.

Del Rosario told CNN Philippines’ The Source that there have been many times that China showed that it could not be trusted.

“Mr. Xi Jinping, in a conversation with the President of the United States said they are no longer militarizing, and as they were talking, they were militarizing on the ground. And there was another leader who was told by Mr. Xi Jinping that there would be no artificial island building, and as he was saying that, there was island building,” the former top diplomat said Monday.

China has assured the Philippines that it would not ramp up its militarization of the South China Sea, where several countries, including Manila and Beijing, have overlapping territorial claims.

However, China has not stopped building military facilities in those waters, even asserting its rights to build these structures on the Philippine-claimed Spratly Islands. China was seen deploying up to 95 “militia” ships near the Philippine-occupied Pag-asa Island.

He added that he also does not trust China to join a probe on a Chinese vessel’s hitting of a Filipino fishing boat last June 9 in Recto Bank, causing it to sink and leaving 22 Filipino fishermen floating in the high seas for hours.

“How can you expect the offender to investigate his offense? And secondly, if you put the Philippines and China together, one party is for seeking the truth, another party is for suppressing it,” Del Rosario said.

President Rodrigo Duterte has agreed to China’s suggestion of conducting a joint probe into the incident, adding that a neutral third party should also join the investigation.

This idea was earlier floated by some Philippine officials, including Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra and Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, who is also Chief Presidential Legal Counsel. Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang in a media briefing on Thursday proposed the conduct of a joint investigation, saying this is key to finding a "proper solution" to the incident.

Opposition lawmakers have balked at this proposal, saying it is bound to favor China.

In an earlier statement, China said a Chinese vessel was “besieged” by seven to eight Filipino boats as it was berthed near Recto Bank. It added that it “accidentally” hit the Filipino boat as it was trying to escape.

It also said that the Chinese crew was forced to abandon the Filipino fishermen, "afraid of being besieged by other Filipino fishing boats." It claimed the Chinese vessel only left when other local boats came to rescue the Filipino fishermen.

A succeeding statement from China no longer mentions this account, which has been dismissed by Filipino fishermen as lies.

They told CNN Philippines that they were jolted from sleep when the Chinese vessel hit their boat at midnight, and that the foreign vessel quickly sailed away after seeing them out in the water. They also said there were no other Filipino boats in the area.