Another incident in the South China Sea. Yesterday, the Philippines Secretary of Defense said that a Chinese fishing vessel rammed and sank a Philippine boat, and then left 22 crewmen to “the mercy of the elements,” as he put it.
In a statement, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said, “We condemn in the strongest terms the cowardly action of the Chinese fishing vessel and its crew for abandoning the Filipino crew.”
A Vietnamese ship picked up the fishermen and returned them safely to shore.
The incident happened near Reed Bank, which lies northeast of the Spratly Islands in an area that an international tribunal ruled as Philippine waters in 2016. China ignored that decision and continues to claim nearly all of the South China Sea as its sovereign territory. Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte took office just a couple of months after the court’s ruling and decided he would not try to enforce it.
The Philippines stood no chance against China’s military, he argued, and would just find itself in the middle if the United States became involved. Instead, he’s travelled to Beijing four times to seek Chinese investment, most recently, last month. The promised money and jobs have been slow to arrive, however, while a series of incidents has fueled anger. About 300 fishermen protested outside the Chinese embassy in Manila yesterday, holding signs saying “Defend Philippine sovereignty” and “China out of (Philippine) seas.”
Earlier this week, the U.S. Coast Guard announced that two cutters now in the Western Pacific will stay there to help U.S. partners with sovereignty and fisheries issues. The Coast Guard held a joint exercise with two Philippine vessels in the South China Sea last month.