Philippine bishops among critics of China after fishing boat incident

MANILA, Philippines  — At least three Philippine Catholic bishops have joined growing protests in Manila against what they described as China’s “continuous bullying of the Philippines.”

Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon said the sinking of a Philippine fishing boat and the abandonment of its crew by a Chinese vessel last week was a “manifestation” of China’s lack of respect of Philippine sovereignty, reported ucanews.com.

“They have no respect for our territory, nor respect for Filipino lives,” said the bishop.

On June 9, a Philippine fishing boat sank near the Reed Bank in the South China Sea after a Chinese fishing vessel reportedly hit it while it was at anchor.

The Chinese vessel allegedly sailed away, leaving the 22 Filipinos aboard the sinking ship. A Vietnamese fishing vessel later rescued the crew.

Ucanews.com reported Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga said the incident showed that China “could not be trusted, and they really have selfish, vested interests” in the South China Sea’s contested waters and islands.

“If they are really our friends and neighbors who propagate common peace and prosperity among Asians, they should have avoided provocation, maintained restraint and helped our 22 fishermen,” said the prelate.

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo called on the Philippine government to investigate the incident. He said Manila should demand an explanation.

“We should demand to know why the Filipino fishermen were not rescued and given proper care,” said Bishop Pabillo.

The Philippine government has already called on China to sanction the crew of the Chinese vessel.

Salvador Panelo, Philippine presidential spokesman, said the alleged “abandonment” by the Chinese vessel of the fishermen was “uncivilized as it was outrageous.”