Rescuers were searching Monday for 14 people missing after a local fishing boat collided with a Chinese cargo ship about 15 miles from Paluan town in Occidental Mindoro, authorities said.
The boats crashed early Sunday, capsizing the local fishing vessel Liberty 5.
The captain of the cargo ship Vienna Wood, which is registered in Hong Kong, called for help "a few hours later" and the vessel was being escorted to land by the Philippine Coast Guard, said agency spokesman Commodore Armando Balilo.
It was not immediately clear if the Liberty 5 had sunk.
The authorities deployed aircraft and ships in the hunt for the missing people, who included 12 Filipino crew members and two passengers.
Strong ocean currents interrupted the search Sunday evening, but operations resumed early Monday.
READ: At least 12 Filipinos missing in boat collision
Occidental Mindoro Gov. Eduardo Gadiano said nearby towns were notified of the incident in case any of the missing fishermen wash up on their shores.
The Palace said the Philippines would take legal action against the Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship that hit the Filipino fishing boat.
In a televised press briefing, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the incident would be governed by local laws since it happened within the Philippines’ territorial waters.
“This is an issue of Philippine admiralty law because the collision occurred in Philippine territorial waters,” Roque said.
“There is no international law application here other than foreign flag ships can sail through under the concept of innocent passage but as far as accountability is concerned, it will be the Filipinos who will decide since the collision happened in our waters,” Roque said.
The wooden fishing boat was heading to Manila when the collision happened early Sunday, the Coast Guard said.
The Gabriela Women's Party urged the Coast Guard to use all possible assets to hasten the search and rescue of 14 missing fishermen, after their fishing boat was reportedly rammed by a Chinese vessel.
READ: DFA says no policy to appease China, chides critics
“It is unfortunate that this latest hit-and-run mishap at sea yet again calls for a review of how our maritime safety authorities are actually protecting our fisherfolk from foreign vessels. We demand an immediate and impartial probe on this latest incident as we fervently hope that our missing fishermen are far from danger,” Gabriela said in a statement.
The PCG’s patrol boat BRP Boracay conducted search and rescue operations in Mamburao, Occidental Mindoro. Its Islander plane, as well as an additional rescue team from Batangas, also joined the search and rescue operations.The cargo vessel was on its way to Australia from Subic while the fishing boat, which came from Cagayan de Oro and Tawi-Tawi, was on its way to the Navotas Fish Port.
READ: China boat did it, says Beijing
On June 9 last year, a Chinese fishing trawler hit and sank a Filipino boat more than 300 kilometers further to the southwest near Reed Bank, an area of the South China Sea within Manila's territory. The Chinese vessel left the 22 Filipinos on board in open water, where they were rescued by Vietnamese fishermen hours later.
In the aftermath of the incident, critics questioned President Rodrigo Duterte's efforts to play down the accident and his decision to accept Beijing's offer to conduct a joint investigation. With AFP
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