Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua (PNA file photo)

MANILA -- Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua said Beijing will punish those responsible for the sinking of a Filipino boat in the West Philippine Sea if proven that they were Chinese nationals.

"If it were true that it was Chinese fishing boat which did it, they would be duly educated and punished for their irresponsible behavior," the envoy said in a text message to Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.

"Incidents happen even in the best-regulated family. We hope this incident could be held in a proper context," he added.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Thursday confirmed that the Philippine government has filed a diplomatic protest to China on the boat incident near the Reed Bank.

Initial reports from the Western Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines said "a certain Chinese vessel accidentally collided with a Filipino fishing boat on June 9, 2019 at around 12 midnight" while it was anchored near the Reed Bank in the West Philippine Sea. The Chinese vessel immediately left the scene, abandoning the 22 Filipino crewmen.

Zhao said the incident is being "thoroughly and seriously investigated," adding that Beijing "shares (the Philippines') concerns" about the fishermen. (PNA)