MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Where is the other version of the boat sinking story in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea)?
At around 9:20 pm on Friday, June 14, the Chinese embassy in Manila posted on Facebook its statement on the sinking of a Philippine boat near Recto Bank (Reed Bank), an oil-rich underwater reef formation that belongs to the Philippines but is coveted by China. (READ: Recto Bank: Why China covets what belongs to the Philippines)
In this statement, China admitted a Chinese vessel was involved, but claimed that the vessel was "besieged by 7 or 8 Filipino fishing boats," preventing it from rescuing the Filipino fishermen from their sunken vessel. The captain of the Filipino boat Gem-Ver, in an interview with Rappler, promptly denied China's claim.
Hours after posting this statement, however, the statement was gone from Facebook. It was unclear if the statement was deleted or temporarily hidden.
The Chinese embassy posted this statement again on Facebook at around 11:44 am on Saturday, June 15.
The removal of the statement drew flak from Filipinos on social media, fueling speculations that China was taking back its claim.
Still, the statement remains on another platform. The Chinese embassy, at 10:10 pm on Friday, sent the same statement to reporters through email.
Here is the full, unedited text of the Chinese embassy's statement:
Press Release on the so-called collision of fishing boats
between China and the Philippines
China's preliminary investigation shows: at 2400 hours on June 9, 2019, "Yuemaobinyu 42212," a Chinese fishing boat from Guangdong Province, China, engaged in a light purse seine operation, was berthed at the vicinity of Liyue Tan (Reed Bank) (116 ° 40 'E, 11 ° 35' N) of the Nansha Qundao. It was suddenly besieged by 7 or 8 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.
The Chinese captain tried to rescue the Filipino fishermen, but was afraid of being besieged by other Filipino fishing boats. Therefore, having confirmed the fishermen from the Filipino boat were rescued on board 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 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.
Below, watch the response of the captain of the Philippine boat, Junel Insigne, refuting China's claim.
"Kami-kami lang ang nandoon. Kami-kami lang. Wala namang ibang bangka doon. Kami lang doon. Kami lang dahil noong gabing 'yun lumubog nga kami, kami pa ang aatake?" Insigne told Rappler in Occidental Mindoro.
On Twitter, opposition Senator Francis Pangilinan also blasted China's version of the story: "Their version of events is as fake as their territorial claims." – Rappler.com
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Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at email@example.com.