South China Sea Collision Talk Threatens to Rock China-Philippines Relations
13 June, 2019, 21:57
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana will recommend Manila the filing of a strongly worded diplomatic protest after a fishing boat that was hit in the disputed South China Sea by a suspected Chinese vessel that also abandoned the 22 Filipino fishermen onboard as their boat sank.
Lorenzana thanked the Vietnamese crew for saving the Filipinos.
The South China Sea is considered to be a flashpoint with neighboring countries unhappy that China has transformed seven disputed reefs into islands which can serve as military bases.
A Vietnamese fishing vessel in the area rescued the Filipino crew in coordination with the Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Mindanao Command.
Philippines' Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin Jr. arrives for a Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) at the European Council in Brussels on October 18, 2018.
Geng said it was irresponsible for the Philipines to "politicise the incident without verification".
In an angry statement issued Thursday, Duterte's spokesman Salvador Panelo blasted the suspected Chinese trawler crew, saying "such act of desertion is as inhuman as it is barbaric".
However, Philippine defence department spokesman Arsenio Andolong told AFP the agency had yet to confirm whether the vessel was Chinese-registered, adding it was the Filipino fishermen who identified it as such.
Panelo joins Lorenzana in calling for an investigation and sanction against the Chinese crewmen for their actions.
Chinese authorities, however, still occasionally approach Philippine resupply vessels to make sure they're not carrying construction materials to the disputed shoal, the Philippine official said.
Panelo said, "Regardless of the nature of the collision, whether it was accidental or intentional, common decency and the dictates of humanity require the immediate saving of the crew of the downed Philippine vessel".
Philippine officials say Reed Bank lies well within their country's exclusive economic zone, an internationally recognized stretch of water where coastal states have exclusive rights to fisheries, undersea oil and gas deposits and other resources.
One senator, Ana Theresia Risa Hontiveros called on President Rodrigo Duterte "to immediately order the recall of our ambassador and all our consuls in China, "the Manila Times reported".
The waters are strategically important and Manila calls the area the West Philippine Sea.
The country claims Reed Bank as part of the province of Palawan, as it is only 85 nautical miles away from Philippine shores.
But the president has been observed to be less firm with China, repeatedly stressing that the Philippines can not afford a war over the maritime dispute.
The government earlier protested the swarming of Chinese vessels around Philippine-occupied Pag-asa Island and Chinese fishermen's harvesting of giant clams, locally known as taklobos, in Scarborough Shoal. China has refused to recognize the decision.
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