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(UPDATE 3 - 2:54 p.m.) MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III on Monday urged the people not to be too quick to blame China for the alleged collision that resulted in the death of one Filipino, even as he is set to visit the three injured fishermen.
The Department of Foreign Affairs, when asked if it would file another protest over the incident, would only say that the Coast Guard is investigating the incident.
The Coast Guard, on the other hand, said it is still verifying the flag of the vessel, although witnesses said it had "Hong Kong markings."
The Chinese embassy here said it has no verification if a Chinese vessel was involved in the collision.
Also, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council director for operations Edgar Ollet on Monday said NDRRMC has no confirmation at this time whether the fishing boat "Axl John" was indeed hit by a Chinese vessel.
The council also said that the incident was in no way connected to the Philippines' standoff with China over the Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal.
Ollet, quoting field reports, said the allegation that it was a Chinese vessel came from one of the rescued fishermen, Edimio Balmores, who reported seeing Chinese markings on the vessel. But Ollet said this has to be confirmed by the proper authorities.
"Based on the available reports, the fishermen who were hit by a foreign vessel was in no way connected with the Scarborough standoff," Ollet said in an interview.
"We also have no confirmation that it was a Chinese vessel," he added.
Field reports said the fishing boat left for sea last June 18 but was met with huge waves due to the southwest monsoon enhnaced by the passing storm "Carina."
The boat had to anchor off and sought refuge off Bolinao where it was hit by the foreign vessel.
Ollet said it was possible that the incident was an accident as the foreign vessel could also be seeking shelter in the area due to big waves.
One person died in the incident, identified only as Christopher. Three were rescued and four more are still missing. The local Coast Guard and police are still conducting search and rescue operations in the area.
The Armed Force of the Philippines (AFP) also has no confirmation on the incident.
But AFP spokesman Col. Arnulfo Burgos said that even without this incident, the military would continue to perform its mandate of protecting the country's territory.
The military is already fast-tracking the capability upgrade program to be able to detect foreign intrusions in Philippine territory.
The President stressed that the incident is "actionable" as it could be a violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
"We are gathering all necessary evidence. We are not accusing anybody, but if you abandon people in distress, that could be a violation of the Law of the Sea. It is actionable," he said.
In his speech during the oathtaking ceremony of some 300 new members of the Liberal Party in the Cordillera Autonomous Region on Monday, Aquino said he wants to personally talk to the three rescued fishermen who are still suffering from hypothermia.
"Please allow me to attend to the needs of our fishermen. We will go today to the hospital where those who were rescued were brought to," the President said.
The President said there is also an ongoing mission to rescue the four other fishermen who have been missing for three days now.
One fisherman died in the collision.
The President opened his speech by expressing hope that he will not be reported socializing with his partymates here in Benguet amid the ongoing problem on the maritime collision.
Transportation Secretary Manuel "Mar" Roxas II, in introducing the President, said Aquino still has to attend to a lot of concerns, including those involving China and the fishermen. With reports from Roices Sibal, TV5