News24xx.com - “Vietnam. Philippines. Friends.” Those were the three words that saved the 22 Filipino fishermen from certain death after their boat was sunk by a speeding Chinese ship and left on their own on June 9.
According to Philippine officials, the Philippine boat was anchored in the Recto (Reed) Bank in the West Philippine Sea when the steel-hulled Chinese boat reportedly collided with it.
The fishermen, who were asleep when they were hit, were shocked to find out their wood-hulled ship, FB Gimber1, had been damaged and was already sinking.
The Chinese fishing vessel, identified by Chinese authorities as Yuemaobinyu 42212, stopped for a while and flashed its lights. Upon seeing the distressed fishermen, the vessel allegedly maneuvered in reverse and left immediately.
The Filipinos would recount later that they spotted another vessel some 5 miles away as they were struggling to stay afloat. Two of them took a small boat to seek help from that other ship.
After rowing for about 2 hours, they managed to reach the vessel, which they later found out to be manned by the Vietnamese. Despite not being able to understand each other due to the language barrier, the Vietnamese offered help and friendship.
“They allowed us on their vessel. They fed us, let us rest, gave us water. They are the ones who helped us,” one of the rescued fishermen told ABS-CBN News in Filipino. “He said, ‘Vietnam? Philippines? Friends.’ That’s why I knew they were from Vietnam.”
The Philippines’ Defense Secretary expressed appreciation to the Vietnamese fishing vessel which came to the Filipinos’ rescue a few hours after being left “to the mercy of the elements,” reports GMA.
“We thank the captain and crew of Vietnamese vessel for saving the lives of the 22 Filipino crew,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a statement.
He also stated that they believed it to be a deliberate attack since the Chinese vessel did not bother to stop and offer assistance after the incident.
“We condemn in the strongest terms the cowardly action of the Chinese fishing vessel and its crew for abandoning the Filipino crew,” Lorenzana was quoted as saying. “This is not the expected action from a responsible and friendly people.”
Located off the west coast of Palawan, the Recto Bank is within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone, based on the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016.