Philippines to UN body: China vessel 'callously abandoned' Filipino fishermen

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 15) — The Philippines has turned to a United Nations agency to decry the "callous" abandonment of Filipino fishermen by a Chinese vessel in an incident in the West Philippine Sea.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro "Teddy Boy" Locsin, Jr. in a tweet on Saturday said he had authorized the Philippine Embassy in London to make an "appeal" before the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a London-based specialized agency of the UN that focuses on the safety, security, and environmental impact of international shipping. Both the Philippines and China are member states of the IMO.

"The Philippine statement drew attention to the fact that the Filipino crew of the fishing vessel 'were callously abandoned to the elements on the rough seas and would have perished' were it not for the assistance from the crew of a Vietnamese vessel," the press release posted by Locsin read.

At midnight on June 9, a Chinese vessel hit a Filipino boat near Recto Bank, also known as Reed Bank, an underwater feature claimed by both Manila and Beijing, and left all 22 local fishermen floating in the open seas. The fishermen have since returned home after they were rescued by a Vietnamese vessel.

During a session of the IMO on Friday, the Philippines stressed that China's actions violated the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and the IMO conventions on Safety of Life at Sea and Maritime Research and Rescue.

"It is the obligation of every responsible member state of the UN and the IMO to implement these conventions and related codes concerning maritime safety and security, rather than just paying lip service to them," said Senen Mangalile, Deputy Permanent Representative to the IMO, as quoted in the press release.

"It is also our moral obligation to save a human life whenever and wherever we can do so," Mangalile added.

Beijing denied that the Chinese fishing vessel intentionally rammed the Filipino boat, stressing instead that it was "besieged" by seven to eight Filipino boats and that it accidentally hit a Filipino boat while trying to escape. The Chinese Embassy also said the Chinese crew only left the scene upon seeing that another Filipino boat had rescued the local fishermen.

The Filipino fishermen dismissed China's claims as lies, noting that the Chinese crew immediately sailed away after sinking their boat.

READ: Fishermen recount boat ramming ordeal amid China's 'lies'

Reacting to China's version, Locsin said "that's China's take and it is a free world; it can say anything it wants." He said the Philippines' speaks "from the law of the sea," and that the government sticks to its military's own version of the story. The Armed Forces' Western Command even likened the incident to a hit-and-run, that could be intentional.

Malacañang has not replied to requests for comment on Saturday, saying it is waiting for China to respond to the diplomatic protest filed Wednesday.