hilippines Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has condemned a Chinese fishing vesssel for allegedly crashing into a Filipino fishing boat and leaving the crewmen to drown.
In a statement released on Wednesday, Lorenzana says that the incident occurred on the evening of June 9th near the Recto Bank in the disputed South China Sea. The bank is part of an area of the sea that both the Philippines and China claim sovereignty over.
“We denounce the actions of the Chinese fishing vessel for immediately leaving the scene of the incident, abandoning the 22 Filipino crewmen to the mercy of the element,” he declared, claiming that the Filipino boat was anchored at the time and blaming the Chinese vessel for the crash.
Lorenzana adds that fortunately a Vietnamese fishing boat was in the area and managed to rescue all 22 crew members. After thanking the Vietnamese captain and crew, Lorenzana goes on to “condemn in the strongest terms” the “cowardly action” of the Chinese vessel.
— South China Sea News (@SCS_news) June 13, 2019
While Lorenzana may have struck a strong, definite tone in his official statement, he was later forced to admit that the Philippine government had not identified the offending the vessel as Chinese and were only relying on the word of the Filipino fishermen. The crash happened at around midnight while many of the crew members were asleep.
Lorenzana told Rappler that open to the possibility of being wrong about the ship’s origin but would be sticking with his declaration “until proven otherwise.”
To be fair to Lorenzana, the assumption is at least one that agrees with recent history. Over the years, Chinese fishing vessels have been involved in numerous similar incidents around the globe, from South Africa to the Galapagos to Argentina where the country’s coast guard fired warning shots at a Chinese fishing boat in April.
Some in the Philippines, including a spokesperson for the country’s armed forces, have even gone a step further, asserting that the crash was no accident. Meanwhile, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang has said that the whole thing was only an “ordinary maritime accident.”