The Philippines could end diplomatic relations with China if it is proven that a Chinese fishing vessel "intentionally" sank a Filipino boat in the West Philippine Sea, the presidential spokesman said Thursday as he talked about possible scenarios arising from the boat ramming incident.
"The captain and the crew of the Chinese vessel should not have left the injured party without any assistance".
In a statement, Lorenzana said the "F/B GIMVER 1 was anchored at the time when it was hit by the Chinese fishing vessel" near the Recto Bank, also known as the Reed Bank, on June 9.
"We condemn in the strongest terms the cowardly action of the suspected Chinese fishing vessel and its crew for abandoning the Filipino crew".
Like the Philippines, Vietnam has partial claims over the South China Sea, where Beijing has staked "indisputable sovereignty" and built artificial islands with military facilities and airstrips. The sailors were eventually rescued by a crew aboard a passing Vietnamese ship.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin announced he filed a diplomatic protest in a tweet on Thursday. "It is irresponsible to resort to the media to hype and politicize the incident without verification", he said, adding a Chinese investigation was underway in coordination with Philippine authorities.
Duterte's spokesman, Salvador Panelo, said the abandonment of the fishermen was "uncivilized as it is outrageous".
There has been a recent history of Chinese ships blocking Philippine military and civilian vessels at Reed Bank and nearby Second Thomas Shoal, where Philippine marines keep watch on board a long-marooned Philippine navy ship while being constantly watched by Chinese coast guard ships in a years-long standoff.
Panelo said, "Regardless of the nature of the collision, whether it was accidental or intentional, common decency and the dictates of humanity require the immediate saving of the crew of the downed Philippine vessel".
According to Lorenzana, the F/B GIMVER1 was anchored at the time when it was hit by the Chinese fishing vessel.
Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros called on President Rodrigo Duterte to recall the country's ambassador and consuls to China, similar to what he did when Canada failed to take back tons of illegally dumped garbage.
The waters are strategically important and Manila calls the area the West Philippine Sea.
In 2011, the Philippine military deployed a bomber plane and another light plane to Reed Bank after a Philippine ship searching for oil complained it was approached and harassed by two Chinese patrol boats.
But the president has been observed to be less firm with China, repeatedly stressing that the Philippines can not afford a war over the maritime dispute. But the Philippines has suspended oil and gas exploration in the area due to past Chinese protests.
China has refused to recognize a United Nations-backed arbitral ruling on a Philippine case which invalidated its sweeping claims in the resource-rich waters.
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