Filipino boat sinks after it was hit by Chinese vessel in West Philippine Sea

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 12) — A Filipino vessel sank after being hit by a Chinese ship in the West Philippine Sea Sunday night, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorezana said Wednesday.

Lorenzana in a statement reported that Filipino vessel Gem-Vir 1 was anchored when it was hit by the foreign fishing vessel near Recto Bank, also known as Reed Bank, an area claimed by both the Philippines and China.

Lt. Col. Stephen Penetrante, acting Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Command spokesperson, likened the event to a hit-and-run.

"Naka-anchor kasi gabi na po, pagkatapos ito po ay nabangga nitong Chinese vessel, yan, and after the collision the Chinese vessel immediately umalis po e, tumakas, parang hit-and-run," Penetrante told reporters Wednesday night.

[Translation: It was anchored because it was night time, and then it was hit by the Chinese vessel. After the collision, the Chinese vessel immediately left, ran way, like a hit-and-run.]

He added that they suspect the collision might not be an accident.

"According to our report, its far from accidental kasi kung accidental po ito the standard operating procedure (SOP) should be, they should stop di po ba? and then they should rescue these fishermen natin," he explained.

[Translation: If it's accidental then the SOP should be that they should stop, shouldn't they? And they should rescue our fishermen.]

In an interview with CNN Philippines, Penetrante said that they do not know yet the intentions of the Chinese vessel, and that WESCOM is currently conducting an investigation on the matter.

"WESCOM as of the moment is initially conducting an inquiry on how the collision happened, in order to document these evidences for possible filing of diplomatic complaints," Penatrante said.

Lorenzana condemned the "cowardly action" of the foreign crew who abandoned the 22 Filipino fishermen after the collision. They were later on rescued by a Vietnamese vessel.

"We thank the captain and crew of Vietnamese vessel, for saving the lives of the 22 Filipino crew. However, we condemn in the strongest terms the cowardly action of the suspected Chinese fishing vessel and its crew for abandoning the Filipino crew," Lorenzana said in a statement.

"This is not the expected action from a responsible and friendly people," he added.

Lorenzana's strongly worded statement was released as the country celebrated its 121st Independence Day. He also called for an investigation and appropriate diplomatic action in response to the incident.

Call for action

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro "Teddy Boy" Locsin, Jr. on Twitter said the abandonment of Filipino fishermen was "contemptible and condemnable." He, however, said he is still awaiting more reports as his only basis for now is the statement from Lorenzana.

"Vietnam's rescue will be the basis of enhanced Vietnam-PH military cooperation," he added.

Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan, in a statement, urged the government to "reverse its policy of subservience and appeasement and file diplomatic protest."

"No self-respecting nation in the world will stay meek and docile in the face of such cruelty and aggression," he added. President Rodrigo Duterte has been criticized for pursuing friendly ties with China despite the maritime dispute.

Senator Panfilo "Ping" Lacson, meanwhile, said the Chinese government should punish those responsible for the incident.

Senator Joel Villanueva said the incident was a huge insult, especially since the Philippines is celebrating its Independence Day.

"Let us be reminded of the sacrifices our heroes did so that we can continue to have the freedom we are enjoying now. It is now our responsibility to do the same: assert our rights over the west Philippine sea and our freedom to navigate and exploit the resources within our exclusive economic zone," Villanueva said in a statement.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague has recognized Philippines' sovereign rights over its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea, which includes the Reed Bank. The country claims it as part of the province of Palawan, as it is only 85 nautical miles away from Philippine shores. China rejects the arbitral ruling and continues to claim virtually the entire South China Sea.

The government earlier protested China's incursions in the West Philippine Sea, including the swarming of its vessels around Philippine-occupied Pag-asa Island and Chinese fishermen's harvesting of giant clams, locally known as Taklobos, in Scarborough Shoal.