1 dead, 4 missing after ‘Chinese vessel’ bumps fishermen’s boat

(UPDATED) One fisherman died and 4 are missing in Pangasinan after their fishing boat was allegedly "bumped" by a "Chinese vessel" north of the disputed shoal

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – One fisherman died and 4 are missing in Pangasinan after their fishing boat was allegedly “bumped” by a “Chinese vessel” on Saturday, June 23.

The fishermen were aboard the boat Axl John when it was allegedly bumped by a Chinese vessel while anchored at a fish shelter far north of the disputed Scarborough shoal, according to an incident report released by the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) on Sunday morning, June 24.

The fishing boat set out from the northern coastal town of Bolinao, in Pangasinan province, last Monday, June 18, and was reported to have sunk two days later, Office of Civil Defence chief Benito Ramos told AFP.

“Of the 8 fishermen aboard, 4 were plucked out of sea only yesterday, but one of them died in a hospital,” Ramos said. “Four more are still missing.”

The rescued fishermen told authorities they believed the vessel which collided with their boat was Chinese, Ramos said, though this could not be independently verified.

Chinese embassy officials were not available for comment on Sunday.

Four of the 8 fishermen from the boat, all from Bolinao town, were rescued by the Magsingal, Ilocos Sur town police. They were fishermen Edimio Balmores, 40; Herman Balmores, 51; Celino Damian, 32; and one other named “Chistopher aka UDO.”

Meanwhile, Fred Celino, Arnold Garcia, Domy de los Santos, and Amante Resonable were reported missing.

The rescued fishermen, the NDRRMC said, were brought to the Gabriela Silang General Hospital in Vigan City for medical attention.

Not in disputed shoal

Ramos said the incident occurred north of Scarborough Shoal where the Philippines and China have been engaged in a tense stand off since April.

“It’s north of the Scarborough, though we could not determine how far in terms of distance or nautical miles,” he said.

President Benigno Aquino earlier this month ordered two Philippine ships to pull out from the shoal during bad weather, a move that the Chinese said calmed tensions in the area.

While China said it would also ask its fishermen to leave the area, it stressed it had no intention of pulling out its bigger ships from there.

As of last week, there were still 7 Chinese ships at the shoal, according to the Philippines foreign ministry.

The dispute began in April after Chinese government vessels blocked Philippine ships from arresting Chinese fishermen near the shoal.

Since then, both countries have maintained ships there to press their respective claims to the area.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, even waters close to the coasts of neighbouring countries. The Philippines says the shoal is well within its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.

The shoal sits about 230 kilometers (140 miles) from the Philippines’ main island of Luzon. The nearest major Chinese landmass is 1,200 kilometers northwest of the shoal, according to Philippine navy maps. – Rappler.com and Agence France-Presse

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