Philippine fishing boat hit by China ship, sinks

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Philippine fishing boat hit by China ship, sinks

Chinese vessel flees; Phl protest urged

MANILA, Philippines — A Chinese vessel hit and sank a Filipino fishing boat anchored in Recto Bank in Palawan last weekend, and sailed away without rescuing the Filipino fishermen floundering in the water. Vietnamese fishermen later arrived to help the Filipinos.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana yesterday lashed out at the Chinese for abandoning the distressed Filipino crew of F/B Gimver 1 after what he described as a “collision” on Sunday in the vicinity of Recto or Reed Bank in the West Philippine Sea, over which the Philippines has been awarded sovereign rights. 

“We denounce the actions of the Chinese fishing vessel for immediately leaving the incident scene and abandoning the 22 crewmen to the mercy of the elements. The F/B Gimver 1 was anchored at the time when it was hit by the Chinese fishing vessel,” Lorenzana said. He was in Lanao with President Duterte for the celebration of Independence Day.

Other details of the incident were not immediately available, like the actual size and make of the vessels involved.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. also denounced the Chinese for not rescuing the Filipino fishermen.

“I TAKE MY CUE FROM DEFENSE SEC LORENZANA. WHAT IS CONTEMPTIBLE AND CONDEMNABLE IS THE ABANDONMENT OF THE CREW TO THE ELEMENTS,” Locsin said in a tweet last night.

He added the Vietnamese assistance “will be the basis of enhanced” Philippines-Vietnam military cooperation.  

There have been previous reports of Chinese maritime militia vessels disguised as fishing boats harassing Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea.

Lorenzana said the Philippine Navy ship BRP Ramon Alcaraz was called from patrol duty in the West Philippine Sea to assist the Gimver crewmembers.

“We thank the captain and crew of the Vietnamese vessel for saving the lives of the 22 Filipino crew. However, we condemn in the strongest terms the cowardly action of the Chinese fishing vessel and its crew for abandoning the Filipino crew. This is not the expected action from a responsible and friendly people,” the defense chief said.

He called for a formal investigation of the incident and appealed to authorities to take appropriate diplomatic steps.

Locsin, meanwhile, stressed he based his reaction only on Lorenzana’s statement, as he had just landed in Geneva.

“I’ve been airborne. I am awaiting a West PH task force report. My reaction thus far relies exclusively on Def. Sec. Lorenzana. I can’t rely on media; it’d be irresponsible to rely only on media,” Locsin said.

In a ruling in 2016, a UN-backed arbitral court based in The Hague invalidated China’s massive claim in the South China Sea and reaffirmed the Philippines’ maritime entitlements. The ruling underscored the Philippines’ rights over Recto Bank, as it is indisputably well within the country’s EEZ.

COC in 3 years

Meanwhile, Chinese embassy chargé d’affaires Tan Qingsheng said Beijing sees the completion of the Consultation on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea in three years. 

Tan said the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China are committed to properly managing the South China Sea issue through the Bilateral Consultation Mechanism on South China Sea (BCM). 

“What’s more, we are working together with other ASEAN partners to strive to complete the Consultation on Code of Conduct in South China Sea in three years, with the aim of turning the South China Sea into a sea of peace, friendship and prosperity,” Tan said at the dinner celebration for the 121st Independence Day of the Philippines and the 18th China-Philippines Friendship Day at the Philippine International Convention Center on Monday.

China maintained that based on a “consensus” with ASEAN, the consultation process for the Code of Conduct (COC) should be an internal process and not open to the public.

The Philippines is calling for a full and effective implementation of the ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) while negotiations for a COC in the South China Sea are ongoing.

ASEAN and China signed the non-binding DOC on Nov. 24, 2002.

As China continues to project its power in the South China Sea, a US Navy carrier strike group led by USS Ronald Reagan concluded yesterday its joint exercise with three Japanese warships –helicopter carrier Izumo, and destroyers Murasame and Akebono.

“The Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan participated in a cooperative deployment with Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) ships,” the US 7th Fleet said in a statement.

The drill was held in the South China Sea, but the US and Japan did not disclose other details like specific location. The drill began on June 10.

“The time we are able to spend at sea training and operating with our partners in the JMSDF is invaluable. Our alliance has never been stronger, and it’s never been more important to this region than right now,” Capt. Pat Hannifin, USS Ronald Reagan commanding officer, said in a statement.  –  With Pia Lee-Brago