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Proper for Duterte to be silent on Recto Bank collision – experts

Two experts on Tuesday agreed that President Rodrigo Duterte handled the Recto Bank collision correctly by saying nothing on the matter for over a week.

Duterte finally spoke on the incident on Monday, arguing that he preferred to wait for the results of an investigation before issuing a statement as he did not want matters to escalate into a conflict with China.

According to Lucio Pitlo III, a research fellow from the Asia Pacific Pathways to Progress Foundation, Inc., it was understandable why Duterte chose to be silent on the incident - the ramming of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese vessel.

"It's understandable that the people would demand the President to speak out. But it is also understandable [that he restrained himself] because if the President says something about an incident that involves another country, it amplifies a lot of things," Pitlo explained.

"From that context, I would say the president has been able to handle it. I think for the president to suspend any big statement while the investigation has yet to be concluded is, I think, the right thing to do."

Pitlo added that it was the duty of the Foreign Affairs chief to speak about matters involving other nations.

Alberto Encomienda, executive director of the Center for Archipelagic and Regional Seas Law and Policy Studies, agreed that Duterte did the right thing as it "keeps things calm."

"He feels the need to speak up simply because of the clamor of the public. Knowing him, I don't think he will make a definitive statement without the actual results of the investigation," Encomienda said.

On Monday, the Chief Executive broke his silence and dismissed the ramming as nothing more than a "little maritime accident."

Duterte went further and  called on the Philippine Navy to "stay out of trouble." It was, however, the Navy ship BRP Alcaraz that assisted in the rescue of 22 Filipino crewmen left stranded at sea by the Chinese vessel.

China had claimed that some Filipino boats besieged the Chinese vessel, which led to the ramming. It also denied that the June 9 incident was a hit-and-run situation.

Nevertheless, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro "Teddyboy" Locsin Jr. file a diplomatic protest over the collision. — Anna Felicia Bajo/DVM, GMA News