At least 12 Filipinos missing in boat collision: Reports

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At least 12 Filipinos were missing early Monday after a collision between their fishing boat and a foreign cargo vessel, media reports in the Philippines said.

The incident occurred Sunday off the northwest coast of the Philippines province of Occidental Mindoro, the Inquirer.net and Rappler news websites reported.

Both cited the Philippine Coast Guard, but the Inquirer reported 12 disappeared while Rappler said the missing included 12 crew plus two other employees of their company.

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The other vessel involved was “a Chinese cargo vessel,” according to Rappler, while Inquirer.net said it was flagged in Hong Kong, the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

“When our (team) arrived in the area, they still saw the fishing boat capsized but did not find anyone anymore,” the Inquirer quoted Commodore Leovegildo Panopio, commander of the Coast Guard’s Southern Tagalog district, as saying.

A strong current interrupted the search on Sunday evening but it would resume early Monday, he said.

The incident happened about 15 miles (24 kilometers) from Paluan town, the Inquirer said.

On June 9 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 but which is also claimed by Beijing.

Vietnamese fishermen rescued 22 Filipinos after that collision, which left President Rodrigo Duterte facing accusations of defending Beijing. Duterte has tried to downplay the case, calling it an “accident” and accepting Beijing’s offer to conduct a joint investigation.