MANILA - A Catholic bishop on Thursday expressed dismay over the Philippine government’s response to the sinking of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese vessel.
A Chinese vessel rammed a Filipino fishing boat in Reed Bank (Recto Bank) last week, triggering public outrage.
President Rodrigo Duterte and his top officials’ call for calm over the incident have earned them the ire of the public who want Manila to stand up to Beijing’s acts of bullying.
The Philippines filed a "strongly worded" diplomatic protest last week immediately after the incident was reported.
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, a vocal critic of the Duterte government, said it was clear that there was malice on the part of the Chinese crew when they rammed the boat and abandoned the Filipino fishermen in open waters.
“Talagang nakaka-discourage. Itong mga mahihirap na mga tao, mga fishermen natin, sila pa ang sinisisi na hindi raw totoo ang sinasabi nila,” Pabillo told ABS-CBN News on the sidelines of the Clergy-Lay Congress of Catholic lay group Couples for Christ in Pasay City.
“Talagang mali ang China dito. Mali ang Chinese ship na gumawa noon. Binangga niya in Philippines waters at hindi niya tinulungan.”
Filipino captain Junel Insigne and 21 of his men have been crying for justice following the ramming incident.
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.