'No hit-and-run': Beijing denies boat abandoned Pinoy fishermen near Reed Bank

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 14 2019 10:29 PM | Updated as of Jun 15 2019 12:04 AM

Embassy: Chinese ship was 'suddenly besieged' by Pinoy boats

MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - The Chinese Embassy in Manila denied Friday that a Chinese ship abandoned Filipino fishermen after sinking their boat near Reed Bank last Sunday.

In a Facebook statement that was later deleted, the embassy claimed that Chinese fishing boat Yuemaobinyu 42212 was berthed near Reed Bank when it was "suddenly besieged by 7 or 8 Filipino fishing boats."

"During evacuation, 42212 failed to shun a Filipino fishing boat and its steel cable on the lightning grid of larboard bumped into the Filipino pilothouse. The Filipino fishing boat tilted and its stern foundered," the statement read, citing Beijing's preliminary investigation.

The embassy said the Chinese captain attempted to rescue the Filipino fishermen but was "afraid of being besieged by other Filipino fishing boats."

"Therefore, having confirmed the fishermen from the Filipino boat were rescued on board of other Filipino fishing boats, 42212 sailed away from the scene. The above shows that there is no such thing as 'hit-and-run'," it said.

The embassy said Beijing "will continue to properly handle this issue with the Philippines in a serious and responsible manner."

"The two sides are maintaining close communication through diplomatic channels," it said.

China earlier downplayed the incident, which it said was an "ordinary maritime accident."

The Philippine Navy and the captain of the Filipino boat F/B GEMVIR1, however, begged to differ.

F/B GEMVIR1 Captain Junel Insigne said the Chinese saw their boat sinking and even turned off their lights before leaving them at sea.

The Philippine government has said it might cut diplomatic ties with China if the incident was found intentional.

The US Embassy in Manila, meanwhile, said it urges "all parties to refrain from using coercion and intimidation to assert their territorial and maritime claims."

"Our position on the South China Sea is clear: We support lawful uses of the sea, respect for international law, unimpeded lawful commerce, and peace and stability," it said in a statement Friday.

"We saw news reports of the collision at sea. We are thankful none of the Filipino fishermen lost their lives and glad that Vietnamese fishermen rescued them from the open sea."