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Philippines President stands by China, doubts own fishermen in sea collision by Andreo Calonzo June 18,2019   |  Source: Bloomberg

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is standing by China over a collision involving the two nations’ boats in the South China Sea, with his spokesman casting doubts on local fishermen’s accounts of the incident.

In his first public statement about what he described as a “maritime incident,” Duterte said China’s side should be heard on the collision that resulted in a Philippine vessel carrying 22 fishermen sinking in disputed waters on June 9. The crew were rescued by a Vietnamese fishing boat and a Philippine Navy ship.

“It is best investigated. I don’t issue a statement now because there’s no investigation and no result," Duterte said in speech at a Philippine Navy event on Monday night. "The only thing we can do is wait and give the other party the right to be heard.”

The Philippines will not escalate tensions with China by sending military ships to the South China Sea following the collision, he added, reiterating his nation isn’t ready to go to war with Beijing.

At a briefing Tuesday, Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo said there are "circumstances that give doubt to the version" of the Filipino fishermen, including how most of them were asleep when the collision happened.

“The President doesn’t want this to be blown into an

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