(UPDATE) THE Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) clarified on Thursday that the ramming of a boat last Monday that killed three Filipino fishermen did not happen in Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough Shoal, as earlier reported, and that it was an accident.
“We would like to clarify that this happened in the waters of Pangasinan and not in the immediate vicinity of Bajo de Masinloc. I would like to correct the statement that we issued earlier,” PCG spokesman Commodore Jay Tarriela said in an interview
Tarriela said the incident happened 180 nautical miles off Agno, Pangasinan. “This is closer to Pangasinan compared to Bajo de Masinloc,” he said.
“Based on the statements made by the Filipino fishermen, the area was very dark due to the adverse weather conditions at that time. So there is a possibility that the fishing boat was not noticed by the other vessel,” he said.
“It’s not deliberately rammed, as what was speculated by some,” he said.
Tarriela stressed that no Chinese vessels were involved in the incident.
Speculations about Chinese involvement surfaced after initial reports indicated that the incident occurred in Bajo de Masinloc, an area in the West Philippine Sea where there have been numerous run-ins between Chinese and Filipino ships.
“Let me make this clear: China has no involvement in this incident,” said Tarriela.
He said a PCG investigation is underway to confirm the identity of the ship that reportedly rammed the Filipino boat.
Tarriela said the coast guard is trying to determine the next port of call of the “vessel of interest” and to find out if it was in the area where the incident happened at the time and date claimed by the Filipino fishermen.
“Once this is confirmed, the Philippine government, through the Department of Foreign Affairs, will reach out to the country where the vessel is registered,” he said.
Cross-referencing the fishermen’s account with the PCG’s maritime traffic data earlier revealed that the Pacific Ana, a Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker, was sailing in the waters near where the incident had occurred.
The Pacific Ana had come from South Korea and was bound for Singapore.
The fishing boat Dearyn, with 14 crew members, was moored to an anchored fish float when it was struck by a bigger vessel at 4:20 a.m. on Monday.
Three fishermen were killed while 11 crew members survived by transferring to the Dearyn’s eight service boats after it sank.
The victims have been identified as Dexter Laudencia, the 47-year-old boat captain; Romeo Mejeco, 38; and Benedicto Olandria, 62, both crew members.
Tarriela said the survivors had returned to their hometown of Calapandayan in Subic, Zambales.