MANILA — The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Friday said it rescued 7 Chinese fishermen from a damaged vessel off Guiuan, Eastern Samar.
The coast guard received a report around 2 p.m. on Thursday that the Chinese fishing vessel "had a damaged hull, causing it to be listed," PCG spokesperson Commodore Armand Balilo said in a statement to ABS-CBN News.
The PCG's BRP Cabra was still towing the fishing vessel around 11 a.m. Friday, PCG's spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea, Commodore Jay Tarriela, said during a televised briefing.
The vessel is on its way to Tacloban port. All of the Chinese on board were safe and in "good physical condition," Balilo added.
It was not clear if the rescued Chinese were illegally fishing in Philippine waters, Balilo said.
"Kapag distressed call kasi, kahit sino pang merong hindi tayo pagkakaunawaan, pero if it is a distressed call or need for search and rescue, wala tayong pinag-uusapang issue. Tutulungan at tutulungan natin," he said.
(Even if we have disagreements, if we receive a distress call or need for search and rescue, we don't discuss any other issue. We help them.)
China and the Philippines are at odds over the South China Sea, with Beijing claiming sovereignty over almost the entire area despite an international court ruling that its claims have no legal basis.
The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei have overlapping claims to parts of the sea.
On Facebook, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian quoted reports of a separate incident in which a Chinese vessel rescued a Filipino fisherman found floating in the open sea this week.
"I have always said that China and the Philippines are friendly neighbors separated by a strip of water. This inspiring story of our friendship and emergency assistance at sea show how our ties go above and beyond expectations," the envoy said.
— With a report from Agence France-Presse