MANILA, Philippines (AP):
A US Navy warship rescued five Filipino fishermen yesterday after helicopter pilots spotted them flashing a lighter in the middle of the night while standing on the roof of their sinking boat, officials said.
A Navy helicopter discovered the fishermen in international waters just after midnight, hours after the fishing boat started taking in water, said Tina Malone, a US Embassy spokeswoman in Manila.
The guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell, which was closest to the scene, launched two boats to rescue them.
Malone said the fishermen were given a check-up and found to be in good health.
The carrier and accompanying warships are patrolling the South China Sea in a show of American power in waters where China has been squabbling with neighbours such as Vietnam and the Philippines over who has the control of a string of tiny islands.
The US says it wants to keep the strategic waters, believed to be rich in gas and oil deposits, open to international navigation, and has urged China and other claimants to settle territorial disputes peacefully. Washington also has a defence treaty with the Philippines and has been helping to modernise the poorly equipped Philippine navy to defend Manila's claims.