'Just an accident,' defense chief says of China-PH ship incident

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 19 2019 12:12 PM

Twenty-two Filipino crewmen of a fishing boat which sank on June 9, 2019 after collision with a Chinese vessel are shown on board a Philippine Navy ship. Jeff Canoy, ABS-CBN News

MANILA -- The sinking of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese vessel in disputed waters, which sparked a fresh diplomatic spat, could be an "accident," Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Wednesday.

The Philippines has protested the incident near Recto Bank, wherein the Chinese ship allegedly left 22 Filipino fishermen out at sea after their boat sank.

"I think this is just an accident. Based on some of the information that we gathered from some of the crew, this is just an accident," Lorenzana told reporters.

The Filipino vessel's cook, the only one on board who was awake at the time of the incident, was "not convinced that they were really rammed intentionally," he said.

"Siguro hindi lang sinasadya ng kabila na masagi niya. Yun lang, hindi tinulungan," he said.

(Maybe the other side did not intend to hit them. Still, they did not help them.)

Asked if he was softening his initial assessment of the incident, Lorenzana said: "I think we can change our mind if new facts will come."

A Vietnamese ship rescued the Filipino fishermen.

Lorenzana said it took some time for information from the site to reach his office. In a June 12 statement, he condemned the Chinese ship crew for abandoning the Filipinos.