Coast Guard: Bolinao sea collision likely accidental

Rappler.com
The Coast Guard says the sea collision off Pangasinan that killed one Filipino fisherman was likely an accident

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said it is unlikely that a suspected Chinese vessel intentionally rammed a Philippine fishing boat off Bolinao, Pangasinan.

Coast Guard Spokesperson Lt Commander Armand Balilo told ANC, the ABS-CBN News Channel, that the agency has yet to finish its investigation but he believes the incident was an accident. 

“In my personal opinion, I am ruling out the speculation that the vessel deliberately hit the boat because if the crew saw the boat, most likely it will even help the fishermen. That’s the culture of maritime personnel in the maritime community. We help each other and bring people to the nearest point of entry.”

The collision occurred last June 20, Wednesday, leaving one Filipino fisherman dead, 3 wounded and 4 others missing. The incident happened north of the disputed Scarborough Shoal, being claimed by both the Philippines and China. The survivors allegedly said their boat was hit by a Chinese vessel.

Balilo said the PCG got in touch with the Maritime Coordinating Center of Hong Kong on Monday, June 25, to verify whether or not the vessel identified as MV Peach Mountain was involved in the incident. MV Peach Mountain is registered in Hong Kong. 

The PCG is also coordinating with Singaporean and Japan authorities holding the database of vessels passing through the area. The Coast Guard expects to get information by Tuesday, June 26.

Earlier on Monday, June 25, President Benigno Aquino III warned against hastily blaming China for the sea mishap.

Low visibility, huge waves

The Coast Guard’s initial investigation shows the Philippine fishing boat set sail on Monday, June 18. The next day, big waves caused the vessel to submerge. The fishermen then tied the boat to a fish sanctuary so it will not drift away.

On Wednesday, June 20, at about 1pm, the fishing boat was hit by the other vessel.

“We do not discount the possibility that the other vessel did not see the fishing boat because based on the account of the fishermen themselves, there was low visibility and huge waves so in that case, it would be really hard to see it,” said Balilo.

He added, “It would be hard for the cargo vessel to see them because it is 3 times the fishing boat’s size. You can imagine, it’s like a Superferry vessel here.”

Balilo explained it was unlikely for the cargo vessel’s radar to detect the fishing boat because the latter had a wooden hull, which radars are unable to spot.

Balilo also said that the site of the collision is still within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone but is considered “innocent passage.”

He said that the area was a normal sea lane for vessels coming from the Philippines, Indonesia, and Singapore going to Japan, Hong Kong, or South Korea. – Rappler.com

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