MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III clarified that the Philippines is not accusing a Chinese vessel of “bumping” a Philippine boat north of the disputed Scarborough Shoal.
In an interview in Baguio City on Monday, June 25, Aquino said a probe is still underway to determine if a Chinese vessel caused the incident.
The collision occurred off Pangasinan last June 20, Wednesday, leaving one Filipino fisherman dead, 3 wounded and 4 others missing.
“As of now, let’s not say first that it’s the fault of Pedro, Juan or Maria, whoever without evidence. We don’t want to add confusion to the situation. Maybe we will find out from the investigation that it’s actually the reverse,” Aquino said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Aquino’s comments came after the rescued fishermen reportedly told authorities that their boat collided with a Chinese vessel.
The President, however, said the Philippines will take action if it is proven that a Chinese vessel rammed the Philippine boat.
“If there was a ramming incident and you left the fishermen at sea, that is a clear violation of the laws governing the seas. That is actionable. We can go to the appropriate fora to file the necessary charges for justice for our fishermen.”
Aquino said a rescue operation is ongoing for the missing fishermen. The wounded ones are in the hospital and suffering from hypothermia.
Survivors still in shock
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said it is waiting for reports from the Philippine Coast Guard and the Philippine National Police Maritime Group on the nationality of those behind the incident.
Benito Ramos, NDRRMC executive director, told the Inquirer that the fishing boat, AXL John, set sail last June 18 when a larger vessel hit it in the waters of Bolinao, Pangasinan two days later.
One of the fishermen allegedly mentioned to the boat’s owner that the vessel that hit them was Chinese.
“There’s still no confirmation if it was a Chinese vessel. Since yesterday, we cannot talk to the survivors because they are still in shock and suffering from hypothermia. What they are saying is not yet accurate,” Ramos said.
China to PH: Verify facts
The Chinese Embassy in Manila said news reports that a Chinese vessel was behind the incident remain unverified.
In a statement on the Embassy’s website, Chinese Embassy Spokesperson Zhang Hua said the embassy checked with relevant authorities in China.
“Up until now, there have been no reports of vessel collision accident or SOS requests on the reported dates and in the reported waters,” said Zhang.
Zhang added, “Someone reportedly said that the Philippine fishing boat was ‘rammed by a Chinese vessel.’ We wonder what that news story was based upon. We hope relevant persons can verify the facts with a responsible attitude before they report.”
China pulls out vessels from Scarborough
The Philippines and China are locked in a 2-month dispute over Scarborough Shoal. The Philippines calls the Shoal Panatag or Bajo de Masinloc while China calls it Huangyan Island
On Monday, June 25, the Philippines announced that both Manila and Beijing have pulled out their vessels from the Shoal.
Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said, “Based on coordination with the Philippines and China, as of two days ago, we have received information that all boats have left the lagoon in Bajo de Masinloc.”
“There are no longer any boats from either the Philippines or China INSIDE the Shoal.”
The Philippines initially pulled out its vessels from the Shoal due to bad weather. – Rappler.com
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