By Felipe Salvosa II 

The rescued crew of Filipino fishing boat Gemvir 1 allegedly sunk by a Chinese vessel near Recto Bank at the West Philippine Sea on Sunday. | PHOTO FROM PEOPLE’S TELEVISION

China’s embassy in Manila on Friday denied that a Chinese vessel intentionally sunk a Filipino fishing boat, offering a different narrative on what happened at the West Philippine Sea last Sunday.

It claimed that its own preliminary investigation showed that the Chinese vessel Yuemaobinyu 42212 was actually “besieged” by seven to eight Philippine vessels, and that it accidentally hit a Filipino boat at Recto (Reed) Bank as a result.

Moreover, the Chinese captain of Yuemaobinyu 42212 tried to rescue the crew of the capsized Filipino boat, F/B Gemvir 1, but was afraid of the other Filipino vessels around it, the embassy claimed.

“The above shows that there is no such thing as ‘hit-and-run,’” the embassy said in a statement Friday night.

At midnight on June 9, Yuemaobinyu 42212, a fishing boat from Guangdong Province, “engaged in a light purse seine operation, was berthed at the vicinity of Liyue Tan (Reed Bank),” it said.

“It was suddenly besieged by 7 or 8 Filipino fishing boats. During evacuation, 42212 failed to shun a Filipino fishing boat, and its steel cable on the lighting grid of larboard bumped into the Filipino pilothouse. The Filipino fishing boat tilted and its stern foundered,” it added.

“The Chinese captain tried to rescue the Filipino fishermen, but was afraid of being besieged by other Filipino fishing boats. Therefore, having confirmed the fishermen from the Filipino boat were rescued on board of other Filipino fishing boats, 42212 sailed away from the scene,” the Chinese embassy said.

The 22 Filipino crew of Gemvir 1 were rescued by a Vietnamese vessel, according to Philippine authorities.

Gemvir 1’s captain, Junel Insigne, has insisted that the Chinese vessel intentionally sunk his boat, which was anchored near Recto Bank, and then abandoned it.

Manila on Wednesday filed a diplomatic protest with Beijing, as part of a “calibrated” response to the incident.

The resource-rich Recto Bank lies within the Philippines’ 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone, and is close to the Kalayaan or Spratly Islands being disputed by the Philippines, China, Taiwan, Malaysia and Vietnam.