The Philippine Coast Guard on Friday said it fired upon one of four Taiwanese fishing vessels that entered the country’s territorial waters, leaving one fisherman dead.

Coast Guard commandant Rear Adm. Rodolfo Isorena said the shooting occurred around 10:30 a.m. Thursday, while a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources vessel (MCS 3001) operated by PCG personnel was patrolling the Balintang Channel off Batanes.

The PCG personnel encountered four foreign fishing vessels within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and tried to board one of them, but another “repeatedly tried to ram our MCS,” Isorena said in a statement.

He said this prompted the Coast Guard personnel on board the MCS to fire “warning shots” and later on, shoot the vessel’s machinery portion “to disable” it.

“While the maneuver is happening, our MCS detected the presence of unidentified grey and white ships, forcing them to withdraw and return back to port,” Isorena said.

He said the personnel on board the MCS were not able to immediately verify what happened to the fishing vessel, and the PCG only learned Friday that one of the Taiwanese fishermen died.

Isorena said that while the PCG considers the incident as “very unfortunate,” more effort will be done to secure the country’s waters.

“Efforts will be instituted to prevent similar occurrences. The government will increase our visibility in the area to prevent future incursion of our waters,” the PCG chief said.

“We sympathize with the family of the fisherman who died and we assure them of a transparent and impartial investigation. The PCG will relieve all personnel on board MCS 3001 of their duties while the investigation is ongoing,” he added.

Earlier, China’s state-owned Xinhua News Agency earlier reported that a Filipino “military ship” opened fire on a Taiwanese fishing boat on Thursday, about 180 nautical miles southeast of Erluanbi, the southernmost tip of Taiwan.

“After killing the fisherman, the Filipino military ship continued to chase and fire in bursts at the Taiwanese vessel,” Xinhua said, citing information from Taiwan’s fishing authority and media.

Maj. Ramon Zagala, chief of the Armed Forces’ public affairs office, said that contrary to the report, the incident involved a “Coast Guard-controlled” BFAR vessel.

Zagala, however, said the incident occurred within the Philippines’ “territorial waters.”

“Since the incident occurred within our territorial waters, it is therefore within the jurisdiction of our coast guard,” Zagala said in a statement.

Col. Edgard Arevalo, the Navy’s spokesman for issues in the West Philippine Sea, also denied Xinhua’s report.

Commodore Nodolfo Tejada, commander of the Naval Forces Northern Luzon, reported Thursday night that all Navy vessels under his command were in ports in Subic or Sual, Pangasinan, Arevalo said. (John Roson)

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