Philippines to release 17 Vietnamese fishermen this week

By Van Viet   October 31, 2016 | 01:29 am PT
The fishermen were arrested for illegal fishing, but a prosecutor believes they were only trying to avoid a storm.

Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte will lead an event on Wednesday to send off 17 Vietnamese fishermen who were previously arrested for illegal fishing but later had the charges dropped.

The decision to release them, promised by Duterte last month, came a few weeks after a provincial prosecutor officially dismissed the charges against the Vietnamese.

The fishermen were caught on September 8 by the Philippine Navy about 28 nautical miles off Santa Catalina and were accused of fishing in Philippine waters.

But Associate Provincial Prosecutor Meinrado Plete in Vigan City dismissed the charges on October 7 after the fishermen explained that they went into the waters to avoid a storm.

“They reached Philippine waters because of force of nature, which, at that time, could not be foreseen and could not be controlled by man," Plete said. "Instead of the punitive arm of the law, we should extend to them our helping hand.” 

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, who accompanied Duterte on his two-day visit to Vietnam in September, cited the decision as "an act of goodwill" from the Filipino president. Apart from the release of the fishermen, Duterte last month also promised to return the Vietnamese vessels seized by authorities.

Seven Vietnamese fishermen were arrested by the Philippines over illegal fishing activities 33 nautical miles west of Currimao, Ilocos Norte in October last year. They were released the following month.

Related news:

> Thai Navy seizes 28 Vietnamese fishermen

> Indonesia frees 228 illegal Vietnamese fishermen

> Indonesia releases 49 illegal Vietnamese fishermen

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