SUAL, Pangasinan- President Rodrigo Duterte personally sent off 17 Vietnamese fishermen who were arrested for alleged poaching in the coastal waters of Santa Catalina, Ilocos Sur in a ceremony at the Port of Sual here on Wednesday afternoon.
The President and Vietnamese Ambassador to the Philippines Troung Trieu Duomg led senior officials as well as provincial and local officials, led by Mayor Roberto Sual, in sending home the detained fishermen.
Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morete, who was among those who sent off the Vietnamese, said the fishermen were on board three fishing boats that were intercepted by the Philippine Navy on September 8.
The Vietnamese claimed that they entered Philippine waters only to seek shelter from rough waters spawned by Typhoon Ferdie at the time and from strong monsoon winds that followed.
Morete said the Vietnamese were offered Philippine Airlines tickets for their trip back to their country but opted to go home aboard their three fishing boats.
Only 16 of them were charged with violation of Section 91 of Republic Act 10654 before the Provincial Prosecutors’ Office of Ilocos Sur as the 17th arrested was a minor.
The case, however, was dismissed after investigators found that the Vietnamese had no intent to violate Philippine laws.
Some of the fishermen were identified as Tran Huu Trong, Bui Van Liem, Nguyen Van Phuong, Dien Thien Son, Le Tien, Tran Hu Phuc and Hyun Than Trung.
The Vietnamese ambassador said the release of his countrymen was part of the agreement forged by President Duterte and his own President during Duterte’s visit to Vietnam three weeks ago.
Duterte gave the fishermen provisions for their travel back to their country that included toiletries, coffee, sugar and food including rice, vegetables and beef, which were loaded on their boats.
The Vietnamese vessels then were escorted up to the Philippine boundary in the South China Sea [West Philippine Sea].