Duterte to free Viet poachers
DAGUPAN CITY—President Duterte will lead the Nov. 2 ceremonial send-off for 17 Vietnamese fishermen caught poaching off Sta. Catalina town in Ilocos Sur province, after a prosecutor dismissed the charges against them.
The fishermen were on board three fishing boats on Sept. 8 when they were arrested by the Philippine Navy about 28 nautical miles off Sta. Catalina.
After his two-day visit to Vietnam in September, Mr. Duterte ordered the release of the fishermen “as an act of goodwill on the part of the Philippine government.”
The fishermen were charged with poaching but Associate Provincial Prosecutor Meinrado Plete in Vigan City dismissed the charges on Oct. 7.
Plete lent credence to the Vietnamese fishermen’s account that they reached Philippine waters “to protect themselves from unsympathetic and exacting waves brought about by then incoming Typhoon ‘Ferdie’ and ‘habagat’ in the Philippine sea.”
“They reached Philippine waters because of force of nature, which, at that time, could not be foreseen and could not be controlled by man. Instead of the punitive arm of the law, we should extend to them our helping hand,” said Plete.
Because of the decision, the Ilocos regional office of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) also dropped its administrative complaint against the Vietnamese.
The Vietnamese have been staying in their boats at the Sual fish port in Pangasinan province. The BFAR confiscated from them about 5,000 kilos of fish, mostly tuna, which were distributed to government hospitals and charitable institutions in the Ilocos region. —YOLANDA SOTELO
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