Speed up probe of Vietnamese deaths, authorities urged
Officials of the Philippine-Vietnam Friendship Association (PVFA) have urged authorities to expedite the investigation into the deaths of two Vietnamese fishermen during a sea chase incident off Pangasinan last week.
PVFA officials led by founding chair and former Sen. Eddie Ilarde said the query into the deaths of Lee Van Liem and Le Van Reo should be resolved quickly to prevent possible retaliation from Vietnam.
At the same time, PVFA officials urged Hanoi to prevent its fishermen from poaching in Philippine territorial waters.
‘Fair and thorough’
Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano also assured Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh that the Philippines would conduct a “fair and thorough investigation” into the deaths of two Vietnamese fishermen.
Cayetano met with the Vietnamese officials at the UN headquarters in New York hours after the incident, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.
“We would like to offer our sympathies over the unfortunate loss of life and give you our assurance that we will conduct a fair and thorough investigation into this matter,” Cayetano reportedly said after he informed his counterpart of the incident.
Cayetano also assured Minh that the five other Vietnamese fishermen who were taken into custody would be given “proper treatment” and that the Vietnamese Embassy could have access to them “any time.”
According to official reports, a Philippine Navy patrol vessel encountered six Vietnamese fishing boats within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone about 34 nautical miles off Cape Bolinao on Sept. 23.
The encroaching fishing boats reportedly tried to escape. According to official accounts, the Navy vessel fired “warning shots” when one of the fishing boats rammed into their vessel.
Navy personnel reported finding two fishermen dead and five others who surrendered when they boarded the fishing boat.
Culture of death
In a statement issued on Saturday, Ilarde said foreign fishermen who poach in Philippine waters had to be arrested and haled to court “but they need not be killed on the spot.”
“Such action confirms other countries’ allegation of a culture of death and violence in the country as true. If it is true that the two (fishermen) died of gunshot wounds as reported by the Pangasinan police, such incident undermines our efforts to disprove such allegation,” Ilarde said.
PVFA president Luis Arriola and secretary-general Rod Domingo said authorities should “punish trigger-happy elements in our Armed Forces and obviate any animosity from our friend, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”
“If they lied that the Vietnamese fishermen engaged them in gun battle, a heavier penalty must be given,” Arriola and Domingo said, without specifying what penalty they had in mind.
“In the same manner, authorities must request the Vietnamese government to make sure their fishermen do not encroach in foreign waters and to punish those found disobeying such order,” Arriola and Domingo said.
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