MANILA - The Philippines might cut diplomatic ties with China if the "collision" of its vessel and a Filipino fishing boat in the West Philippine Sea is found intentional, Malacañang said Thursday.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the option is possible if proven that the collision was intentional as it would be considered an "act of aggression."
"Ibang usapan na iyon ‘pag (that's a different thing if) intentional... If it is intentional, it’s an act of aggression," he said during a Palace press briefing.
Asked what the Palace plans to do if the move is proven to be an act of aggression, Panelo responded: "O, eh ano pang step? Eh ‘di we will cut off diplomatic relations, ‘yan ang unang ginagawa ng mga… ‘pag mayroong mga aggressive acts."
(Oh, eh what step? We will cut diplomatic relations, that's what you do whenever there are aggressive acts.)
The incident has "outraged" President Rodrigo Duterte, he said.
Twenty-two Filipino fishermen were abandoned by a Chinese crew after its ship collided with their fishing boat near the Recto (Reed) Bank off Palawan on Sunday. They were later rescued by a Vietnamese vessel.
The Philippine military's Western Command said Thursday the Chinese ship "accidentally collided" with the Filipino boat around 12 midnight Sunday.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said Thursday Manila has filed a diplomatic protest over the incident while the Palace called on Beijing to sanction the Chinese ship crew for abandoning the Filipino fishermen.
"Whether it's a form of bullying or not, it's outrageous, it's barbaric, it's uncivilized and we're condemning it," Panelo said.
"Our responses will always be calibrated, depende sa (depending on the) degree. But definitely, we will not allow ourselves to be assaulted, to be bullied, to be the subject of such barbaric, uncivilized and outrageous actions from any source," he said.