Philippines Flags Marshall Islands Tanker in Fatal Collision

(Bloomberg) -- Three people are dead after a Philippine fishing boat collided with an oil tanker in what the nation’s coast guard described as an accident near a disputed South China Sea shoal.

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Survivor accounts of the tanker fit the description of the Pacific Anna, a vessel registered under the Marshall Islands, the Philippine Coast Guard said on Wednesday. The fishing boat failed to detect the approaching tanker due to bad weather and darkness, resulting in the collision that caused the fishing boat to capsize, the coast guard said in an incident report.

Eleven crew members survived the incident, which took place early Monday 85 nautical miles northwest of Scarborough Shoal, the coast guard said in an earlier statement, citing details from a survivor.

Earlier in the day, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said in a post on his X account that those responsible will be held accountable, and the victims’ families will be assisted.

The shoal was at the center of recent tensions between the Philippines and China, with Manila saying last week that it took out a barrier in the area installed by China. Beijing has, however, said it removed the structure by itself, as it maintained sovereignty in the area.

“This kind of incident in the South China Sea is indeed very rare. I don’t think the collision has any significant geopolitical implications, given now we know the identity of the vessel,” said Ngeow Chow Bing, director of the Institute of China Studies at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur.

--With assistance from Cliff Venzon, Ditas Lopez and Rebecca Choong Wilkins.

(Adds more details from Coast Guard, analyst comment)

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