President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Wednesday apologized to the five Vietnamese fishermen who were detained in this town on charges of poaching, for the death of their two companions last September.
The Chief Executive sent off the foreigners for a return trip to their country on board their own fishing vessel after being detained in Sual for two months.
The five Vietnamese were apprehended last September 23 by the Philippine Navy for poaching in the country’s territorial waters, some 34 nautical miles off Cape Bolinao in Pangasinan.
In his speech at the Sual Wharf before the send-off, President Duterte apologized for the death of two of the vessel’s crew members during their arrest and expressed hope the incident would not happen again and that it would not affect the good relations between the Philippines and Vietnam.
“We are all ASEANs and we should treat each other as brothers,” the President said as he engaged the audience for more than 30 minutes.
Wearing a Barong Tagalog and gray pants, the President arrived at 4:08 p.m. onboard the Presidential chopper which touched down at Sual Wharf, just a few meters away from the fish market.
He was welcomed by Pangasinan Governor Amado Espino III, Vice Governor Jose Ferdinand Calimlim and Sual Mayor Roberto Arcinue.
A briefing by Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) National Director Eduardo Gongona revealed that for humanitarian reason, as the detained fishermen are all indigents, they and their boats were released without having to pay the corresponding penalty.
The Vietnamese fishers were detained for more than two months in their own fishing boat moored at Sual wharf under watch by BFAR and Philippine Coast Guard personnel while their case for poaching was being heard.
The five were identified as Pham Lam, Pham Net, Nguyen Van Trong, Nguyen Than Chi and Cham To, all of whom spoke with the aid of an interpreter.
Vietnamese Ambassador Ly Quoc Tuan thanked President Duterte for sending the five Vietnamese fishermen home so they could rejoin their families.
He also thanked the people of Sual for taking good care of his countrymen while they were in their town.
Two of the Vietnamese fishers’ companions died when the Philippine Navy men fired warning shots while chasing the poachers but some of the bullets accidentally hit the engine room of their boat where the two victims were hiding at that time.
The guns of the Navy men were turned over to an investigation committee headed by the Philippine National Police and Philippine Coast Guard while some of the personnel were relieved and placed under probe. (PNA)