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Duterte oversees release and farewell of Vietnamese fishermen caught poaching in Filipino waters

By Staff reporters   November 29, 2017 | 07:16 pm PT
The fishermen were arrested in September in an incident which also saw two other crew members killed.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday personally led a send-off ceremony for five Vietnamese fishermen the Philippine Navy had seized in September for alleged poaching.

Their release follows a promise Duterte made to the Vietnamese government while attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in the country earlier this month, according to the Philippine Information Agency.

“We are one, we are ASEAN. I am sorry for this incident, it will not happen again,” the agency quoted him as saying.

The five fishermen were arrested on September 23 after they were discovered fishing 34 nautical miles off Cape Bolinao in the Philippines' province of Pangasinan. During the arrest, the Vietnamese fishing boat allegedly rammed into a Filipino naval vessel, prompting its officers to fire warning shots which accidentally hit and killed two Vietnamese crewmen.

The Philippines issued an apology for the killings in October and Duterte assured that the families of the Vietnamese fishermen who died in the incident would be properly compensated.

The five arrested fishermen were found guilty of poaching but no fines were issued in view of humanitarian considerations and the deaths of their crewmates.

Following the send-off, the Vietnamese fishermen were escorted by the Philippine Navy out of the country's territorial waters, and are expected to reach Vietnam in eight days.

Hundreds of Vietnamese fishermen have been arrested for encroaching in foreign waters in recent years. Last year, Duterte ordered the release of and personally bid farewell to 17 Vietnamese fishermen caught in his nation's waters.

Malaysia has also arrested more than 70 Vietnamese fishermen since April, while more than 1,000 others have been released by Indonesia so far this year.

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