- 02 Nov 2016 20:50
Vietnamese fishermen wave goodbye to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and other officials during a symbolic send-off at Sual township, Pangasinan province in northern Philippines. (Photo: AP/Bullit Marquez)
SUAL: President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday (Nov 2) personally saw off 17 Vietnamese fishermen who had trespassed in Philippine waters, after ordering their release in a gesture of friendship towards Hanoi.
Duterte ordered the release of the 17 men, who were apprehended aboard three fishing boats on Sep 8, after visiting Vietnam, a fellow member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
At a send-off ceremony, Duterte told diplomats and government officials that he had ordered the charges to be dropped since the men had only entered Philippine waters to avoid bad weather.
He said the case was brought to his attention during his visit to Hanoi in late September and both the Philippines and Vietnam were small countries who suffered “impositions” by wealthier nations.
“That is why we place importance on ASEAN. It’s just us, neighbouring each other, and we have to sometimes do some things to protect our interests.”
The freed fishermen, their boats carrying fresh supplies, sailed from the coastal town of Sual with one of the vessels bearing a huge sign saying: “President Duterte Thank you. From: Vietnam fishermen”.
Tran Minh Dung, a translator for the fishermen, said “there is no case against them. The Vietnamese fishermen entered the Philippine waters because they met a typhoon.”
“This (release) will show friendship between the Philippine government and Vietnamese fishermen.”
At the ceremony, the acid-tongued Duterte, 71, once again lashed out at the United States, the Philippines’ main defence ally, for its criticism of his crime war that has claimed over 3,700 lives in four months.
Duterte said his Asian counterparts treated him with more respect. “We should not forget that we Orientals place importance on self-respect, dignity and if we ask or propose something, we do it subtly,” he said.
Duterte has raised eyebrows with his tirades against the United States and the European Union, whose members have also criticised the rash of killings under his administration.
He has instead focused on bolstering ties with neighbouring countries, especially China, where his recent state visit secured Manila billions of dollars in Chinese investments and loans.
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Tags: ASEAN, Association of Southeast Asian Nations, China, Duterte, fishing, human rights, illegal fishing, Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte, Vietnam, Vietnamese fishermen, Vietnamese fishermen who had trespassed in Philippine waters