MANILA, Philippines — A Chinese vessel hit and sank a Filipino fishing boat anchored in Recto Bank in Palawan last weekend, and sailed away without rescuing the Filipino fishermen floundering in the water. Vietnamese fishermen later arrived to help the Filipinos.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana yesterday lashed out at the Chinese for abandoning the distressed Filipino crew of F/B Gimver 1 after what he described as a “intentional collision” on Sunday in the vicinity of Recto or Reed Bank in the West Philippine Sea, over which the Philippines has been awarded sovereign rights.
“We denounce the actions of the Chinese fishing vessel for immediately leaving the incident scene and abandoning the 22 crewmen to the mercy of the elements. The F/B Gimver 1 was anchored at the time when it was hit by the Chinese fishing vessel,” Lorenzana said. He was in Lanao with President Duterte for the celebration of Independence Day.
Other details of the incident were not immediately available, like the actual size and make of the vessels involved.
Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. also denounced the Chinese for not rescuing the Filipino fishermen.
“I take my cue from defense sec lorenzana. what is contemptible and condemnable is the abandonment of the crew to the elements,” Locsin said in a tweet last night.
He added the Vietnamese assistance “will be the basis of enhanced” Philippines-Vietnam military cooperation.
There have been previous reports of Chinese maritime militia vessels disguised as fishing boats harassing Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea.
Lorenzana said the Philippine Navy ship BRP Ramon Alcaraz was called from patrol duty in the West Philippine Sea to assist the Gimver crewmembers.
“We thank the captain and crew of the Vietnamese vessel for saving the lives of the 22 Filipino crew. However, we condemn in the strongest terms the cowardly action of the Chinese fishing vessel and its crew for abandoning the Filipino crew. This is not the expected action from a responsible and friendly people,” the defense chief said.
He called for a formal investigation of the incident and appealed to authorities to take appropriate diplomatic steps.
Locsin, meanwhile, stressed he based his reaction only on Lorenzana’s statement, as he had just landed in Geneva.
“I’ve been airborne. I am awaiting a West PH task force report. My reaction thus far relies exclusively on Def. Sec. Lorenzana. I can’t rely on media; it’d be irresponsible to rely only on media,” Locsin said.
In a ruling in 2016, a UN-backed arbitral court based in The Hague invalidated China’s massive claim in the South China Sea and reaffirmed the Philippines’ maritime entitlements. The ruling underscored the Philippines’ rights over Recto Bank, as it is indisputably well within the country’s EEZ.