U.S. hits intimidation at sea after Philippine boat sinking

MANILA, Philippines – The United States on Friday evening, June 14, rejected coercion and intimidation to assert maritime claims after a Chinese vessel sank a Philippine boat in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

"We saw news reports of the collision at sea. We are thankful none of the Filipino fishermen lost their lives and glad that Vietnamese fishermen rescued them from the open sea," the US embassy said in a statement.

"Our position on the South China Sea is clear: We support lawful uses of the sea, respect for international law, unimpeded lawful commerce, and peace and stability. We urge all parties to refrain from using coercion and intimidation to assert their territorial and maritime claims," the US added.

The US issued this statement around an hour after China admitted a Chinese vessel was involved in the sinking of a Philippine boat near Recto Bank (Reed Bank) in the West Philippine Sea.

Recto Bank is an underwater reef formation that is said to contain huge reserves of oil and natural gas in the West Philippine Sea. While coveted by China, Recto Bank belongs to the Philippines. (READ: Recto Bank: Why China covets what belongs to the Philippines)

Filipino fishermen said a Chinese vessel deliberately sank their boat in the area on June 9, but the Chinese embassy denied there was a "hit and run" near Recto Bank. China claimed the Chinese vessel was in fact "besieged by 7 or 8 Filipino fishing boats," preventing it from rescuing the Filipino fishermen from their sunken boat.

This is the latest twist in this unprecedented episode in the dispute between Manila and Beijing over the West Philippine Sea. The incident took place near Recto Bank, an oil-rich underwater reef formation that belongs to the Philippines but is coveted by China. – Rappler.com

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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 pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.