MANILA - Senator-elect Christopher "Bong" Go on Saturday condemned a Chinese vessel's ramming of a Filipino fishing boat in the West Philippine Sea, an incident that revived tensions between Manila and Beijing in the disputed waters.
Speaking to reporters in Davao City, Go blasted the Chinese vessel for abandoning 22 Filipino fishermen at sea after their fishing boat F/B GEM-VIR1 sank near Recto (Reed) Bank off Palawan on June 9.
The fishermen were rescued by a Vietnamese vessel.
"Kinokondena ko po ang nangyari. Dapat naman kung nasagasaan o nabangga ninyo ang barko natin kayo mismo dapat ang mag-save ng Pilipino, 'wag niyo pabayaan. Buhay rin 'yan ng mga Pilipino," Go told reporters here.
(I condemn the incident. If you hit our boat, you should have saved them and not abandoned them. Filipino lives were at stake.)
Go's statement came amid the silence of his long-time boss President Rodrigo Duterte on the matter. The President has pursued friendlier ties with China amid unresolved disputes in the South China Sea.
The West Philippine Sea, where the incident happened, is the Philippines' exclusive economic zone within the South China Sea. China claims nearly all of the resource-rich waters.
Go told reporters to just wait for the President's official statement.
"Nabanggit niya po na through formal protest ang gagawin ng gobyerno," said Go, formerly Duterte's special assistant.
(He mentioned that the government would file a formal protest.)
"Antayin na lang po natin kung ano ang magiging comment ng pangulo," he said.
(Let's just wait for the President's comments.)
The Department of Foreign Affairs has filed a diplomatic protest against China, while Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the President was calibrating his answers.
He also said the Philippines may cut ties with China if the incident was proven to be intentional.
China has said the incident was unintentional and that the Chinese ship crew tried to help the Filipino fishermen but were "besieged" by other Filipino ships in the area. Opposition lawmakers found this "preposterous," "ridiculous" and "fake."
- with a report from Berchan Louie Angchay, ABS-CBN News