MANILA – Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol on Wednesday said there can be no excuse for the crew of a Chinese vessel which rammed a Filipino fishing boat last week for leaving the distressed Filipino fishermen in open sea.
Piñol, head of the government response team on the incident, said while an investigation would determine whether the ramming was intentional or not, Manila “denounces the act of the Chinese vessel in abandoning the fishermen in distress.”
“Regardless of whether it was accidental or intentional, there is no justification to the act of the Chinese vessel to abandon the Filipino fishermen who were already in distress,” Piñol said in a press conference in Occidental Mindoro, where the fishermen hailed.
The Philippines filed a "strongly worded" diplomatic protest last week immediately after the incident was reported.
Amid public outrage, Duterte on Monday dismissed the sinking of the Filipino boat as just a "maritime incident."
Filipino captain Junel Insigne and 21 of his men have been crying for justice after their fishing boat was rammed by a Chinese vessel in Reed Bank (Recto Bank).
They claimed they were abandoned by the Chinese crew in open waters, in what was described as an indication that the ramming was intentional. They were saved by fishermen from a Vietnamese vessel.
The Chinese embassy in Manila earlier said the captain of the Chinese ship tried to save the Filipinos but was "afraid of being besieged by other Filipino fishing boats."
The incident happened within the Philippines 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea, which is being claimed almost entirely by China.