'Hit and run'
MANILA - A Philippine vessel sank Sunday night following a collision with a Chinese vessel in the West Philippine Sea, endangering the lives of 22 Filipino fishermen onboard, Defense Chief Delfin Lorenzana revealed Wednesday.
Lorenzana denounced the actions of the Chinese for abandoning the Filipino fishermen onboard F/B GIMVER1 following the collision near Recto Bank.
"We denounce the actions of the Chinese fishing vessel for immediately leaving the incident scene abandoning the 22 Filipino crewmen to the mercy of the elements," he said in a statement.
"...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 Philippine ship was anchored when it was hit by the Chinese vessel, Lorenzana said.
A Vietnamese fishing vessel in the area rescued the Filipino fishermen in coordination with the Philippine military.
"We thank the captain and crew of Vietnamese vessel, for saving the lives of the 22 Filipino crew," Lorenzana said.
The defense chief called for a formal investigation into the incident and requested diplomatic action against China.
"We call for the conduct of a formal investigation on the matter and for diplomatic steps be taken to prevent a repeat of this incident," he said.
The Armed Forces' Western Command said the incident was "far from accidental" and likened it to a "hit and run."
"After the collision, the Chinese vessel immediately umalis, tumakas, parang hit and run (immediately left, it was like a hit and run)," AFP Wescom spokesman Lt. Col. Stephen Penetrante said.
"According to our report, it's far from accidental kasi kung accidental ito the (standard operating procedure) should be, they should stop, di ba? And then they should rescue these fishermen natin. Nu'ng tinamaan nila 'yung FB Gimver 1 ay dire-diretso sila, hindi nila tinigilan. (When they hit FB Gimver 1 they went ahead, they didn't stop.)"
The bow number of the Chinese vessel was not seen, Penetrante said.
"Hindi po nakita kasi madilim po. Tsaka siguro kung talagang . . . sinadya nila papatayin nila 'yung ilaw di ba, they don't want to be identified," he said.
(It was not seen because it was dark. And maybe they intentionally turned off the lights. They don't want to be identified.)
He added that Wescom will conduct an inquiry.
The Philippines and China have long been involved in a maritime dispute as Beijing continues to assert its sweeping claims over the South China Sea.
In the past months, sightings of Chinese vessels in Philippine waters have made headlines amid rising tensions.
The Philippine military had said it monitored more than 600 Chinese ships near Pag-asa Island since January of this year.
Satellite images taken in 2018 and released earlier this year also showed that Chinese fishing vessels account for the largest number of ships operating in the Spratlys in the West Philippine Sea. —With reports from Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News