MANILA - Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Monday said he doubts whether a Chinese vessel intentionally rammed a Filipino fishing boat in Reed (Recto) Bank.
Citing a Philippine Coast Guard “expert,” Sotto noted that the Chinese fishing vessel hit Filipino fishing boat F/B GEM-VER with its boom.
The Filipino fishing boat, on the other hand, was hit on its rear portion.
Sotto said this could only mean that “the Chinese only saw the fishing boat when it was near and tried to do a hard left or hard right with its engines on full astern thus the damage is minimal.”
Sotto said it’s important to determine if the Filipino vessel’s masthead light was turned on.
“If it did the collision was deliberate. If it didn't it could be accidental,” he said.
Sotto, nonetheless, stressed that whether the Chinese intentionally rammed the Filipino boat or not “does not preclude the fact that the Chinese vessel left and run.”
“That is the issue that should be addressed by those heartless fishermen in the vessel,” he added.
The incident on Reed Bank, located within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, has triggered fresh tension between Manila and Beijing, which claims almost the entire South China Sea.
The Philippine government, however, has chosen to downplay the incident, with President Rodrigo Duterte saying Manila can’t risk a war with with Beijing given its growing military might.