SUAL, Pangasinan, Philippines – President Duterte is set to visit this town today to send back to their homeland 17 Vietnamese fishermen who were apprehended for poaching onboard three commercial fishing vessels 21 nautical miles off Ilocos Sur two months ago.
On Sept. 8, the Philippine Navy caught the Vietnamese fishermen from Dile Point, Sta. Catalina, Ilocos Sur.
The Bureau of Immigration’s Vigan field office held the Vietnamese, while the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in Region 1 took charge of their commercial fishing vessels docked at Sual Port in Sual, Pangasinan.
In its resolution dated Oct. 7, the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Vigan City, Ilocos Sur dismissed a criminal complaint filed against the Vietnamese fishermen.
In his resolution, Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Noel Meinrado Plete said while the Vietnamese reached Philippine waters to fish, it was only out of necessity as they had to protect themselves from harsh waves brought about by then incoming storm Ferdie and the southwest monsoon in the South China Sea.
“In short, they reached the Philippine waters because of the force of nature, which at that time cannot be foreseen and, likewise, cannot be controlled by man,” Plete said.
He said such incidents, which are beyond man’s control, could wreak havoc even on the sturdiest and most robust of vessels.
“Let us be reminded that even the most robust vessel of them all, the Titanic, succumbed to the force of nature,” Plete pointed out. “Instead of the punitive arm of the law, we should extend to the respondents our helping hand.”
The BFAR-Central Office also dismissed in an order dated Oct. 24 the administrative complaint against the Vietnamese fishermen.
A ceremony for their release was set based on the memorandum of the Bureau of Immigration dated Oct. 18.
Meanwhile, Mayor Roberto Arcinue told local reporters the Sual townsfolk are very grateful and honored to have the President visit their town.
Arcinue said it is probably the first time that a President has come to their town.
He added the ambassador of Vietnam might also come to attend the event.
The three Vietnamese fishing vessels had a catch of about four tons of fish, mostly yellow fins, with average weight of 40 kilos each. These were later distributed to various charitable institutions.
“The local government of Sual is supportive because BFAR is our partner in our mariculture zone,” Arcinue said on acceding to BFAR Region 1 director Nestor Domenden’s request to have the Vietnamese vessels dock in Sual port.
The President’s move is seen as an act of goodwill toward the Vietnamese government and its people, following his two-day visit to Vietnam.