Thursday, 17 November 2011 11:02
ISABELA CITY, Basilan – In consideration to the close diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Vietnam, the Philippine government has ordered the release of confiscated Vietnamese fishing boats back to Vietnam government.
The 6th Civil Relation Group of the AFP reveals that in a letter issued to WESCOM by Undersecretary Ronaldo A. Geron, dated November 09, the Office of the President has ordered the release of the seven fishing vessels used by the 122 Vietnamese nationals who were caught earlier this year illegally fishing within the territorial waters of the Philippines off the southern part of Palawan.
In its decision dated August 26 this year, the Regional Trial Court of Palawan and Puerto Princesa City Fourth Judicial Region Branch 51 awarded the ownership of the said fishing vessels to the Philippine Government after it has found the Vietnamese fishermen guilty of the crime of violation of Section 87 of R.A. 8559.
But “as an act of goodwill and liberality on the part of the Philippine Government,” it has transferred “by way of donation” the ownership of the fishing vessels—five of which are under the custody of the Provincial Government of Palawan while the other two under the Western Command (WESCOM)—to Vietnam by virtue of a Deed of Conveyance signed by Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. and Vietnam Ambassador to the Philippines, His Excellency Nguyen Vu Tu on October 25, 2011.
The agreement aims to “further deepen and invigorate the relations between the two countries.” Both countries are claimants to the internationally disputed Spratly Archipelago which is believed to hold vast reserves of oil and gas.
The Office of the President has directed WESCOM Chief LTGen Juancho M. Sabban AFP to coordinate with the Vietnamese Embassy in the Philippines on the immediate release of the fishing vessels.
The seven Vietnamese fishing vessels in question were confiscated after Philippine authorities arrested 122 Vietnamese nationals fishing about two nautical miles off the coast of Tamburok Island in the municipality of Balabac on May 30 this year.
RTC Palawan sentenced the accused to collectively pay a fine of US$100,000 for each group in each vessel but they were relieved of the obligation after the court subsequently granted a motion to declare them insolvent.
By RVC-PIA9 ZBST
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