The Philippine government has fallen in with Beijing’s explanation that a Chinese vessel didn’t intentionally hit a Filipino boat in the South China Sea on June 9.
Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Wednesday described the incident as “just an accident,” adding the Chinese vessel may have left after hitting and sinking a Philippine boat with 22 fishermen out of fear of being “besieged” by other boats near Reed Bank.
“Maybe the other side didn’t mean to brush against our boat,” Lorenzana said at a televised briefing in Manila on Wednesday.
The Philippines’ Navy chief earlier said the Chinese vessel “rammed” the Filipino boat which was anchored when it was hit, while the spokesman of the military unit in charge of the disputed waters said the incident was “far from accidental.” Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin also protested the incident, which he said he’d call a “hit and run.”
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is not favoring China after the incident, said Lorenzana, who has also called for an apology and compensation from the Chinese vessel’s captain for damaging the Philippine boat.
China’s Foreign Ministry earlier described the incident as an “accidental collision,” while Beijing’s embassy in Manila said the Chinese vessel’s crew was “afraid” of other Philippine boats in the area, prompting the captain to leave the Filipino fishermen.
The sunken Philippine boat’s crew wants Duterte to ask China to hold the Chinese vessel’s captain criminally liable for abandoning them at sea, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol said at a separate briefing after meeting the fishermen.
“There is no justification to the act of the Chinese vessel to abandon the Filipino fishermen. Under international maritime laws, that is illegal. Under human laws, that is immoral,” Pinol said.