DEFENSE authorities reported Wednesday, June 12, 2019, that a Filipino fishing boat sank after a collision with a Chinese fishing vessel in the West Philippine Sea and the Chinese crewmen fled the scene, abandoning the Filipino fishermen in the water.
A Vietnamese fishing boat in the area globally known as the South China Sea rescued the 22 Filipino crewmen of F/B Gimver 1.
Malacañang expressed outrage over the "inhumane and barbaric" act of the Chinese crew.
"The act of abandonment, by those sailing the Chinese fishing vessel of 22 Filipino fishermen aboard their anchored and stationary watercraft hit by them, is uncivilized as it is outrageous," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement issued early Thursday morning.
"The Captain and the crew of the Chinese vessel should not have left the injured party without any assistance or succor. Such act of desertion is inhumane as it is barbaric," he added.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, in a separate statement, also denounced the Chinese for immediately leaving the scene, instead of helping the Filipino fishermen.
“We condemn in the strongest terms the cowardly action of the suspected Chinese fishing vessel and its crew for abandoning the Filipino crew. This is not the expected action from a responsible and friendly people,” he said in a statement.
Lorenzana called for an investigation and for diplomatic steps to be taken to avoid a repeat of the incident.
The Philippine vessel was anchored near Recto (Reed) Bank, which is within the Philippines's exclusive economic zone, when it was hit by the Chinese vessel in the evening of June 9, Lorenzana said Wednesday.
Reed Bank is being considered as one of the areas that will be jointly explored and exploited by Manila and Beijing through a proposed joint oil and gas exploration deal.
Lorenzana thanked the crew of a Vietnamese fishing vessel in the vicinity who rescued the Filipinos. Like the Philippines and China, Vietnam also claims part of resource-rich South China Sea. Other sea claimants are Brunei, Malaysia, and Taiwan.
Panelo said Manila's present maritime row with Beijing "is not and cannot be an impediment for the offending vessel to lend a hand to the distressed crew. "
He stressed that the safety of the crew of the damaged Filipino vessel "should have been the uppermost thought" and helping them "should have been the natural reaction of the crew of the other vessel."
"It is crystal-clear violation of maritime protocols as well as an infringement of internationally accepted practice of assisting a vessel in distress," he said.
"Regardless of the nature of the collision, whether it was accidental or intentional, common decency and the dictates of humanity require the immediate saving of the crew of the downed Philippine vessel," he added.
Panelo expressed hope that the Chinese government would act on the reported collision.
He was also optimistic that the Chinese vessel would be held accountable for abandoning the Filipino crew.
"We call on the appropriate Chinese authorities to probe the collision and impose the proper sanctions to the Chinese crew," the Palace official said.
Meantime, Panelo thanked the Vietnamese vessel who rendered relief services to the distressed Filipino fishermen following the collision.
He said concerned government agencies have immediately responded to the situation and are now assisting the Filipino fishermen.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. was quick to dismiss speculations that the Chinese vessel had “rammed” the Filipino boat.
(Ruth Abbey Gita/SunStar Philippines)