The Vietnamese fishers which rescued the 22 distressed Filipino fishermen were poaching in Recto Bank but their presence was opportune, according to Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol on Wednesday.
Piñol indicated that foreigners fishing in the Recto Bank inside the exclusive economic zone were doing so illegally.
"They were actually poaching, including the Vietnamese that actually aided us. I'm sorry to say that," Piñol said in a press conference in Occidental Mindoro.
"Salamat sa mga Vietnamese sa pagtulong pero you are not supposed to be there but thank God you were there. That was an illegal act that was actually providential," he added.
On June 9, 2019, a Chinese fishing vessel hit a boat carrying 22 Filipino fishermen in Recto Bank—an oil- and gas-rich area within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.
The Filipinos' vessel sank while the Chinese crew immediately left the scene without helping the affected fishermen.
Some of the members of the Filipino crew paddled for about two hours until they reached a nearby Vietnamese vessel. The Vietnamese crew rescued the Filipinos.
Piñol said that it had been agreed in a cluster meeting that the Vietnamese deserve to be thanked for their act of kindness.
"We agreed that we should thank the Vietnamese vessel for aiding our fishermen," Piñol said.
On the other hand, he said that the Chinese crew will definitely have to face charges for abandoning the Filipino fishermen in the open sea.
"Dapat kasuhan talaga, unang-una kasalanan nila, iniwanan nila ang ating mga fishermen," he said.
For its part, the Chinese Embassy admitted that it was a fishing vessel from Guangdong province that figured in the incident but claimed that it occurred after seven or eight Filipino fishing boats "besieged" the Chinese seacraft. —NB, GMA News