By Vince Angelo C. Ferreras, Reporter

THE ARMED Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Command said the collision last Sunday between a Filipino boat and a Chinese vessel at Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea was “accidental.”

“Initial reports reaching this Command from our operating unit that they have received info from the Boat Captain of FB 076 stating that a certain Chinese vessel accidentally collided with a Filipino fishing boat on June 09 2019 at around 12 midnight,” AFP said in a statement on Thursday, June 13.

However, the military confirmed that as earlier reported, the Chinese vessel immediately left after the collision.

“According to the Boat Captain of F/B 076 the said Chinese vessel immediately left the vicinity after the collision leaving F/B GIMVER 1 sinking,” said AFP.

Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana, in a statement on Wednesday, denounced the Chinese vessel for leaving the scene and abandoning the sinking Filipino boat with 22 crew members on board.

At the time of the collision, the Filipino boat was anchored at Recto Bank, which is within the Philippine’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

AFP said a joint task force will investigate “on how the collision happened to document evidences for the possible filing of diplomatic complaints if the alleged information against the Chinese Vessel that did not even bother to stop and rescue the Filipino Fishing Boat with its crew onboard is true.”

Malacañang, meanwhile, said on Thursday that the Philippines is ready to cut diplomatic ties with the People’s Republic of China if the incident is proven to have been done with intent.

“We will cut off diplomatic relations,” Mr. Panelo said in a press briefing at the Palace on Thursday when asked about the country’s next move should an investigation prove that the collision was not accidental.

He added that a diplomatic protest will first be filed.

“Our responses will always be calibrated, depende sa (depends on the) degree. But definitely, we will not allow ourselves to be assaulted, to be bullied, to be the subject of such barbaric, uncivilized and outrageous actions from any source,” the spokesman said.

“We call the Chinese government to probe the incident and to impose punitive action against those at fault,” he added.

Lawmakers and various sectors also condemned the actions of the Chinese fishing vessel’s crew.

“There are laws like the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea or SOLAS and Article 98 of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS that mandate vessels, especially after a collision, to render assistance to the other ship, its crew and its passengers, and where possible, to inform the other ship of the name of his own ship, its port of registry and the nearest port at which it will call,” Senator Richard J. Gordon said in a statement on Thursday.

Reelected Senator Aquilino L. Pimentel III said leaving the scene “was a total breach of that duty to help.”

“I urge the authorities to immediately find out the Flag State of the offending vessel so that the Philippines can file the appropriate diplomatic protest,” Mr. Pimentel added.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon also said a diplomatic protest should be immediately filed by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

“I urge the DFA to file a diplomatic protest immediately. This incident demands strong and immediate action. We cannot let this incident pass. No self-respecting nation will allow that.” — with Arjay L. Balinbin and Gillian M. Cortez