Five Vietnamese fishermen who were caught poaching in Philippine waters and held in a violent confrontation with the Philippine Navy last September were given a send-off by President Duterte on Wednesday.
“I’d like to address our Vietnamese friends that we are one, we are Asians. I’m sorry for the incident I hope it would never happen against but these incidents will not destroy our bond of relationships,” Duterte said during the send-off ceremony.
The release was in fulfilment of Duterte’s promise to Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang at the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Summit held in Vietnam early November.
The fishermen—identified as Phan Lam, Phan Net, Nguyen Uan Trong, Nguyen Than Chi, and Pham To—were caught by authorities fishing near the waters of Bolinao town in Pangasinan on September 23.
Two other fishermen—identified Le Van Liem and Le Van Reo—were killed in the incident when the Philippine Navy boat fired at the Vietnamese fishing vessel using the prohibited superlight.
Duterte had apologized for the incident.
The ceremony was attended by Vietnamese Ambassador Ly Quoc Tan to assist the fishermen, whose boat has been docked at the wharf since the incident.
Duterte led a similar ceremony last year, in which he sent off 17 Vietnamese sailors for allegedly poaching off the coast of Vigan, Ilocos Sur.