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US sees Recto Bank ramming an accident but wants accountability

The United States sees the ramming of a Philippine boat by a Chinese vessel in the Recto Bank as a maritime accident but added that those that caused it should be made accountable.

According a report on "State of the Nation with Jessica Soho", US ambassador Sung Kim said that the US would not intervene in the resolution of the controversy as it involved only the Philippines and China.

"It appears that it was an accident but obviously a very serious situation," Kim said.

"Philippine officials have called on Chinese authorities to fully investigate this and that is important. We need to find out exactly what happened... There should be full accountability," he added.

‘Educate and punish’

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo a few days ago claimed that Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua sent him a text message, indicating that China would "educate and punish" the crew of the vessel that hit and sank a Philippine fishing boat in the Recto Bank if it were indeed Chinese.

In a text message Panelo shared with GMA News Online Zhao supposedly said Chinese authorities were "thoroughly" and "seriously" investigating the incident.

"The fishing boat issue is being thoroughly and seriously investigated. We share your concerns about fishermen," Zhao’s text message read.

“If it were true that it was a Chinese fishing boat which did it, they would be duly educated and punished for their irresponsible behavior," it added.

"Incidents happen even in the best regulated family. We hope this incident could be held in a proper context,” the message read.

Chinese vessel denounced

It was Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana who announced on Independence Day, June 12, that a Chinese vessel hit on June 9 a Philippine fishing boat in the Recto Bank, an area well within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

He said the Chinese vessel left the scene immediately after the collision leaving the Filipino crew at sea.

"A collision between a Chinese and Filipino vessel (FB Gimber1) was reported by Filipino fishermen near the Recto Bank in the West Philippine on the evening of June 9, 2019. The collision sank the Filipino vessel," Lorenzana said.

"We denounce the actions of the Chinese fishing vessel for immediately leaving the incident scene abandoning the 22 Filipino crewmen to the mercy of the elements," he added.

Too early to say if intentional

While the captain and his crew are adamant that the ramming was intentional, some government officials said was too early to say if the incident was deliberate on the part of the Chinese vessel.

"It is too early to say whether it's intentional or accidental. Let the proper investigation body establish that based on the testimonies of both sides," Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol said.

Piñol, however, said it was already established that the Chinese vessel abandoned the 22 crewmen and did not provide any assistance to the Filipinos.

"'Yun ang nirereklamo nila. Wala tayo argument doon. Established natin based on the testimonies of the crew members na talagang iniwanan sila," Piñol said.

‘No hit-and-run’

A Chinese embassy statement confirmed that it was a Chinese vessel that hit the Philippine fishing boat but added its crew wanted to help the Filipinos but was afraid of getting besieged by Filipino boats nearby.

The statement said the Chinese vessel was initially besieged by seven to eight Filipino boats and was trying to escape when it hit the ill-fated fishing boat.

It was a Vietnamese fishing vessel, not Filipino boats, that initially came to the aid of the Filipino crew who were left exposed at sea.

The crew of Gem-Vir 1 said the Chinese vessel even turned after hitting them, turned its light on them only to turn it off and flee. —NB, GMA News