Three Filipino fishermen died after their boat was “rammed” by a foreign commercial vessel in the West Philippine Sea, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said on Wednesday.
The incident happened before dawn on Monday about 160 kilometers (100 miles) northwest of Scarborough Shoal, off the main island of Luzon.
The fishing vessel was moored to a floating device known as a payao, which is used to catch fish.
“The mother boat submerged, resulting in the death of its three crew members, including its boat captain,” the Coast Guard said in a statement.
Eleven other crew members used smaller fishing boats to retrieve the bodies and took them to Infanta municipality in Pangasinan province.
Filipino Fishing Boat ‘Dearyn’ was moored about 85 nautical miles northwest off Bajo de Masinloc or 180 nautical miles from Agno, Pangasinan when it was rammed by a commercial vessel around 4:20 am, the PCG reported.
The PCG said the commercial vessel involved in the incident was foreign-flagged, but did not specify from which country. TV reports said it came from South Korea on the way to Singapore.
A crude oil tanker vessel called the Pacific Anna and registered under the flag of the Marshall Islands was in the area at the time of the incident, the Coast Guard said, after cross-checking the fishermen’s account of the incident with marine traffic.
The PCG said the vessel would be boarded by authorities at its next port.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the Coast Guard was investigating the cause of the incident and urged the public to “refrain from engaging in speculation”.
Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez also stood in solidarity with the President in expressing “the nation’s profound sorrow” over the tragedy.
Recognizing the urgent needs of the grieving families, Romualdez urged government agencies to take prompt action.
“To assist the bereaved families… the agencies concerned must reach out to them immediately and extend financial support, counseling services, and legal assistance. We, in the government, are committed to ensuring they are not left to face this tragic loss alone,” he said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has condoled with the families of the three Filipino fishermen who died off Bajo de Masinloc, it said in a statement.
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said he and other senators “were outraged and aggrieved by the ramming of an unidentified vessel on a Filipino fishing vessel.”
Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros also condemned the alleged ramming of the Pacific Anna, registered in the Marshall Islands, on the local fishermen’s ship.
Also in the House, AGRI Party-list Rep. Wilbert T. Lee said those responsible for the death of the fishermen in the ramming incident should be held accountable and face stiffer penalties for leaving the scene.
House Deputy Minority leader and ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro said the deaths of the fishermen in Bajo de Masinloc highlight the need “for more PCG patrols in our waters.”
Scarborough Shoal has long been a source of tension between Manila and Beijing.
China seized the ring of reefs from the Philippines in 2012 and has since deployed patrol boats in the area.
The South China Sea has some of the world’s most important shipping lanes through which trillions of dollars in trade passes annually. With Charles Dantes, Rey Requejo, Macon Ramos-Araneta, Vince Lopez, and Rio N. Araja