By Liezle Basa Inigo
Sual, Pangasinan — “Treat them with care and love.” This was President Rodrigo Duterte’s message as he led the ceremonial send-off Wednesday of the five Vietnamese fishermen who strayed off Bolinao, Pangasinan in September.
The send-off was held at the Municipal Wharf and Causeway Area in Sual, Pangasinan around 5:20 p.m. The fishermen were identified as Pham To, 34, the boat captain; Phan Lam, 34; Nguyen Thanh Chi, 49; Phan Van Liem, 41; and Nguyen Van Trong, 41 – also residents of Phu Yen province, Vietnam.
The fishermen were also given hygiene kits, fuel and food supplies as they sailed back to Vietnam.
Social welfare and development undersecretary and Vietnamese Ambassador Ly Quoc Tuan were also present in the ceremony together with Gov. Amado I. Espino III, Mayor Roberto Arcinue, and other Pangasinan officials.
It can be recalled that on September 22, the five fishermen were sighted by the Philippine Navy fishing at the vicinity of 34 nautical miles off Cape Bolinao, Pangasinan. The respondents were apprehended on September 23.
As per Section 91 of RA 10654 or the Amended Fisheries Code, it shall be unlawful for any foreign person, corporation or entity to fish or operate any fishing vessel in Philippine waters. The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) found that the respondents did indeed commit poaching within Philippine waters.
However, for humanitarian reasons owing to the indigence of the respondents and the unfortunate death of their crew mates, the BFAR decided that, while poaching was committed, the administrative fine will not be imposed.
In a bilateral talk between the Philippines and Vietnam during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) held in Vietnam recently, Duterte agreed to send home the five Vietnamese fishermen at the soonest possible time.
President Duterte explained that these Vietnamese fishermen must be given consideration as he explained that some do not even understand the laws on fisheries. He also cited the importance of maintaining a good relationship with neighboring countries.
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