The Philippines could end diplomatic relations with China if it is proven that a Chinesefishing 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.
A Vietnamese fishing vessel in the area rescued the Filipino crew in coordination with the Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Mindanao Command.
In a statement, Lorenzana denounced 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 elements".
The incident occured on June 9, which happened to be the Filipino-Chinese Friendship Day.
Philippines' Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin Jr. arrives for a Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) at the European Council in Brussels on October 18, 2018. Antonio Trillanes IV that an independent investigation be conducted by the International Maritime Organization, a United Nations agency.
But Duterte in May warned that the South China Sea was becoming a "flashpoint".
His spokesperson later said that Manila supports US-led action in the region that could limit China's influence.
Asked if he would recommend any action against China, the defense chief told The Associated Press on Thursday, "A strongly worded diplomatic protest is in order".
Malacañang, meanwhile, called on the Chinese government to investigate the Chinese crew for abandoning the Filipino fishermen, and impose the proper sanctions.
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Duterte's spokesman, Salvador Panelo, said the abandonment of the fishermen was "uncivilized as it is outrageous".
Citing information provided by the Philippines, Geng described the sinking as "an ordinary maritime traffic accident" and criticized assumptions made about it. "This is not the expected action from a responsible and friendly people", he added.
The Philippine Coast Guard said it was checking whether those involved were Chinese fishermen or from other neighboring countries like Vietnam, and if the collision was intentional.
"It is far from accidental, because if it is, they should have stopped and rescued our fishermen", he said.
Duterte, who in a pivot to Beijing set aside the worldwide arbitral ruling won by Manila, has recently been more critical of the regional power's incursions, earlier this year, threatening "suicide attacks" following reports that Chinese vessels had surrounded Philippine-held Pag-asa (Thitu) Island.
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.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled that the disputed territory in the South China Sea were covered by the Philippines' sovereign rights.
The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) accused the Chinese ship of ramming into the Philippine ship on Sunday near Recto Bank, a submerged feature near the Spratly Islands that the Philippine ship had anchored on.
China has long demanded that the Philippines remove the rusting navy ship which Filipino marines use as an outpost, but the Philippines has refused.
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