June 16, 2019
CHINA on Saturday admitted that a Chinese vessel “bumped” a Filipino vessel, but denied that the incident was a hit-and-run.
The Chinese Embassy in Manila said the vessel involved was a fishing boat from Guangdong province.
The embassy claimed that the Chinese ship captain tried to save the Filipino fishers.
The embassy said in a statement the vessel, “Yuemaobinyu 42212,” was “besieged” by seven or eight Filipino fishing boats.
“During evacuation, 42212 failed to shun a Filipino fishing boat, and its steel cable on the lighting grid of larboard bumped into the Filipino pilothouse. The Filipino fishing boat tilted and its stern foundered,” it added.
It also added that the Chinese captain tried to rescue the Filipino fishers, but was afraid “of being besieged by other Filipino fishing boats.”
“Having confirmed that the fishermen from the Filipino boat were rescued onboard of other Filipino fishing boats, 42212 sailed away from the scene. The above shows that there is no such thing as ‘hit-and-run,’” the embassy said.
“The Chinese side attaches great importance to China-Philippines friendship and safety of life at sea, and will continue to properly handle this issue with the Philippines in a serious and responsible manner. The two sides are maintaining close communication through diplomatic channels,” it added.
The incident sparked an uproar and fueled calls on the government to “downgrade” its ties with China.
The captain of the Filipino vessel, Junel Insigne, said the Chinese boat fled after ramming their boat.
“Pagbangga po sa amin, binalikan po kami bago inilawan. Noong nakita po kami[ing] lubog na, inalisan kami, tinakbuhan po kami (When we were hit, the Chinese ship returned and turned its lights on. When they saw us sinking, they sped off),” Insigne said in a TV interview on Friday
One of those calling for the downgrading of ties was Sen. Ana Theresia Hontiveros, who found the Chinese Embassy explanation of the sea incident “preposterous.”
“The Chinese government’s response to the West Philippine (South China) Sea hit-and-run incident, through its embassy here in Manila, is preposterous. It is a flimsy attempt at a cover-up to shield the involved Chinese crew from any accountability and shift the blame and responsibility to our distressed fisherfolk,” the Akbayan lawmaker said in a statement.
“The claim that the Chinese vessel ‘accidentally’ hit and sank our ship because it was ‘suddenly besieged by seven or eight Filipino fishing boats’ is ridiculous. Equally incredible is the excuse that the Chinese vessel failed to rescue our fishermen because it was ‘afraid of being besieged’ by our boats,” she added.
Hontiveros said Chinese vessels had a long record of harassing Filipino fishermen.
“In fact, Chinese ships have been ramming, firing water cannons at and sinking Vietnamese vessels in the Paracels for several years now,” she pointed out.
She added that if there were “seven to eight Filipino fishing boats” in the area, the Filipino fishers would not have been rescued by the Vietnamese.
“It is becoming clear that we cannot rely on the Chinese government to conduct an objective investigation on this matter and hold accountable all those responsible for this awful incident,” the senator said.
The Philippine Coast Guard has started an investigation of the incident.
President Rodrigo Duterte is yet to make any public comment on the incident, but he recently criticized China’s assertive stance over the sea.
“I love China… but it behooves upon us to ask, ‘Is it right for a country to claim the whole ocean?’” he said in a speech last month.
Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. had said he had lodged a diplomatic protest with China over the sinking.
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