It is believed the vessel that hit the anchored F/B GIMVER 1 was a Chinese fishing ship. After the collision, the boat left the scene and a nearby Vietnamese vessel rescued the crew. Manila has been quiet over South China Sea issues with President Rodrigo Duterte worried about jeopardising economic deals with Beijing.

Both countries claim Recto Bay and claimants in the region have encouraged fishing to boost their claims.

As reported by South China Morning Post, Philippine Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana broke with the usual policy saying: “We denounce the actions of the Chinese fishing vessel”.

Mr Lorenzana criticised the “abandoning” of the crew but thanked the Vietnamese vessel for their help.

He said “diplomatic steps” must be taken to prevent a repeat of the incident.

READ MORE: South China Sea tensions SOAR as Philippines begs surrounding nations

Defence Secretary Teodoro Locsin Junior went further describing the actions as “contemptible and condemnable” before adding the incident would be “the basis of enhanced military cooperation between The Philippines and Vietnam.”

Recto Bay is just 93 miles from the Palawan Islands, a popular Philippine tourist destination and within the exclusive economic zone of the nation.

Ramon Casiple, an executive director for the Institute for Political and Economic Reform, said he thought the incident would not cause a diplomatic rift: “This is not a problem between both countries’ coastguards and navies, there were shortcomings on the part of the Chinese fishermen”.

In 2011, The Philippines accused Chinese ships of harassing an exploration vessel in the bank.

The South China, called the West Philippine Sea by Manila, is partially claimed by Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, The Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

The region is a hotbed of trade with one-third of international trade passing through, carrying over 3trillion dollars (£2.36trillion) in trade.

In 2016, a tribunal at The Hague found that China had been in violation of Philippine sovereignty in the region.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has affirmed that if Beijing launches armed conflict the US would defend The Philippines.

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