This photo released June 30, 2020 shows a hole on the stem of Chinese cargo vessel MV Vienna Wood from the impact of its collision with Philippine fishing boat FV Liberty 5 in the waters of Occidental Mindoro.
Mindoro collision not related to South China Sea row — Locsin
Patricia Lourdes Viray ( - July 1, 2020 - 12:58pm

MANILA, Philippines — The collision between a Chinese cargo vessel and a Philippine fishing boat has nothing to do with Beijing's expansive claims over the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea, the Philippines' top diplomat said Wednesday.

Search and rescue operations are still ongoing for the 14 missing Filipinos aboard FV Liberty 5 after their boat collided with Hong Kong-flagged MV Vienna Wood in the waters of Occidental Mindoro over the weekend.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said the Philippine government has yet to determine whether there is negligence on the part of the Chinese bulk carrier.

"In that respect it has nothing to do with the South China Sea. Whether or not China was there a fishing boat could have been hit by a commercial vessel, especially one that large," Locsin said at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay online forum.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Dodo Dulay further noted that the incident off the coast of Occidental Mindoro was far away from the West Philippine Sea, the portion of the South China Sea within Philippine exclusive economic zone.

Dulay said in the same online forum that the maritime incident happened within Philippine territory.

"This is no different from any other incident involving vessels within our territory," Dulay said.

Dulay added that the work now rests on the Department of Transportation to investigate whether there was a breach of protocol as mariners are obligated to report such incident.

Initial investigation from the Philippine Coast Guard showed that the Chinese vessel sent a distress call three hours after the collision last Saturday.

"We have to emphasize that because this is being politicized, they are making this about the West Philippine Sea but this is Mindoro. This has no difference with two Philippine-owned vessels that collided with each other," Dulay said.

These remarks from the DFA officials echo the sentiments of the Chinese Embassy in Manila that priority should be given to the rescue of missing crew members and passengers while investigations are ongoing.

"Pending the investigation, we hope all parties refrain from politicalizing the issue and seeking narrow interests from such a humanitarian tragedy," the Chinese Embassy said in a statement Tuesday.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros called the maritime incident a hit-and-run and called on the government not to downplay the incident.

Citing the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, the opposition senator said ships must render assistance to the other ship and its crew and passengers after a collision.

"What happened was that they collided with our countrymen and left them there with no mercy," Hontiveros said.

Around this time last year, a Chinese vessel rammed into and sank a Philippine fishing boat near Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea. The Chinese ship immediately left the scene after the allision and left the 22 crew members of FV Gem-Ver 1 floating at sea for hours before being rescued by Vietnamese fishermen.

President Rodrigo Duterte downplayed the incident as a "little maritime accident", similar to the remarks of the Chinese foreign ministry that it was just "an ordinary maritime traffic accident."

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: July 6, 2020 - 12:54pm

The Philippine Coast Guard deploys two aerial assets for aerial search at the vicinity waters of Occidental Mindoro for 14 missing Filipinos.

The coast guard activates the mission to rescue 12 missing fishermen and two passengers aboard fishing vessel FV Liberty 5, which collided with Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship MV Vienna Wood early Sunday.

"MV Vienna Wood departed from Subic, Zambales going to Australia, while FV Liberty 5 departed from Cagayan de Tawi-Tawi going to Navotas Fish Port, Metro Manila when the maritime incident occurred," the PCG says.

July 6, 2020 - 12:54pm

The Philippine Coast Guard files criminal charges against the shipping company, master and officers of Hong Kong-flagged MV Vienna Wood more than a week after its collision with Philippine fishing boat FV Liberty 5.

PCG spokesperson Armand Balilo said at least four individuals were charged with reckless imprudence resulting to multiple homicide and damage to property before an Occidental Mindoro court.

July 3, 2020 - 10:54am

Vice Admiral Georga Ursabia Jr., commandant of the Philippine Coast Guard, says they are now "building up pieces of evidence" to file criminal charges against Hong Kong-flagged cargo vessel MV Vienna Wood.

"The investigation on the crew members of MV Vienna Wood is now finished. Our lawyers in Mindoro are now getting sworn statements from the fishermen who responded," Ursabia says in an interview with radio dzBB.

After three days, the coast guard has concluded its search and rescue operations and will be shifting to search and retrieval operations.

July 2, 2020 - 11:29am

The Philippine Coast Guard says the 14 missing fishermen and passengers of FV Liberty 5 might have been trapped under the capsized fishing boat.

The coast guard says he depth of the vicinity waters is approximately 2,000 meters while technical divers may only reach 100 meters depth. Search and rescue operations of BRP Boracay, BRP Malapascua and MCS 3009 are still ongoing.

"We are currently waiting for updates from our deployed teas. We are also coordinating with PCG Station - Batangas to provide more details," the coast guard says in a message to reporters.

June 30, 2020 - 3:23pm

Fisherfolk group Pamalakaya says the initial report of the Philippine Coast Guard is enough to sue Hong Kong-flagged MV Vienna Wood.

Initial report from the coast guard revealed that the Chinese cargo vessel did not make any effort to rescue the 12 fishermen and two passengers who went missing after the boat collision.

"The PCG report says it all; despite the ship being in compliant with the navigational standards and capable of rescuing the 14 fishing crews, they left the helpless fishers to uncertainties," Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap says.

June 30, 2020 - 10:39am

Vice Admiral George Ursabia Jr., commandant of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), says initial investigation showed that poor visibility in the area and poor sea condition due to strong southwest monsoon or habagat caused the maritime incident between MV Vienna Wood and FV Liberty 5.

The PCG, however, is also looking into other factors such as incompetence of the crew of the offending vessel, especially the one on watch at the time.

According to Ursabia, MV Vienna Wood stopped and remained in the area after the collision but did nit deploy a small boat to provide assistance to the 14 Filipinos aboard the capsized fishing boat.

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