By Vanne Elaine Terrazola and Mario Casayuran
Is China truly a friend?
Senators posed this question after authorities reported that a Chinese fishing vessel sunk a boat of 22 Filipinos and abandoned them in the West Philippines Sea last June 9.
“We don’t treat our friends like that and we don’t expect to be treated that way either,” Senator Panfilo Lacson said in a statement released Wednesday night.
Lacson said the incident calls for a “hard and serious punitive action” by the Chinese government against the Chinese crew involved.
He said this could assuage the Filipinos’ doubts about the sincerity of China towards the Philippines.
“This incident calls for a leader-to-leader talk. As I said, nothing short of serious punitive action by the Chinese government against those responsible can convince us of a real friendly relationship between our peoples,” he added.
Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito meanwhile considered the incident as “bullying” by China.
“Bullying. This is just too much!” he wrote on Twitter in reaction to news reports on the incident.
“Pinalubog na ang barko, iniwan pa ang crew members sa dagat. Kaibigan ba talaga ang China?” he added.
‘’Kaya gusto ko sila sikuhin kapag sumisingit sa mga linya!’’ he said. (That’s why I elbow them when they unethically squeeze themselves where people have lined up.)
Sen. Joel Villanueva also condemned the incident which he described as a “huge insult” to the Filipinos.
“We strongly condemn the irresponsible actions of the Chinese vessel’s crew. Saving the lives of fellow seafarers should be top priority regardless of nationality or flag. The incident shows the need for greater accountability and enforcement of international laws in the West Philippine Sea,” he said in his statement.
He then called on Filipinos to “assert our rights over the West Philippine sea and our freedom to navigate and exploit the resources within our exclusive economic zone.”
As the country celebrated its 121st Independence Day, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana reported on Wednesday that a Chinese fishing vessel rammed a Filipino vessel near Recto Bank in the West Philippines Sea on the evening of June 9. The collision sank the Filipino vessel, he said.
Lorenzana condemned this as he confirmed that the Chinese vessel “immediately” left and abandoned the 22 Filipino crewmen. A Vietnamese fishing vessel rescued all the Filipino fishermen.
“We condemn in the strongest terms the cowardly action of the suspected Chinese fishing vessel and its crew for abandoning the Filipino crew. This is not the expected action from a responsible and friendly people,” lamented the Defense secretary.
“We call for the conduct of a formal investigation on the matter and for diplomatic steps be taken to prevent a repeat of this incident,” he appealed.