Philippines arrests 122 Vietnamese fishermen

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MANILA: Philippine police and military arrested 122 Vietnamese for illegal fishing yesterday in the biggest haul of foreign fishermen in recent memory, a police commander said.

The Vietnamese were arrested aboard seven fishing boats off the western Philippine island of Palawan, where many foreigners have been apprehended for illegal fishing over the years, said Chief Superintendent Artemio Hicban.

“This is the largest number of Vietnamese who have ever been caught. As far as I can remember, we have never caught these many (foreign) fishermen and fishing vessels,” Hicban, the regional police commander, said.

Vietnamese embassy personnel said they had no information about the arrests and were checking on the report.

Hicban said the fishermen would probably face charges of illegal entry and illegal fishing.

Police at the scene have not yet said if any endangered species were found on their boats which could result in more serious accusations, he said. Hicban stressed that the Vietnamese were caught off the coast of Palawan and were not in disputed waters of the South China Sea that are subject to conflicting claims by the Philippines, Vietnam, China and other countries. “They were caught well within our territorial waters, far from the Spratlys,” he said, referring to a disputed island chain in the South China Sea.

In recent years, many Vietnamese and Chinese fishermen have been caught poaching in the waters off Palawan, in some cases with endangered species such as sea turtles. Earlier this month, a Vietnamese police chief reported that two Vietnamese fishermen were shot and wounded by men wearing Philippine uniforms in the Spratlys.

Meanwhile, several lakeside towns in the Philippines were struggling to cope with mountains of rotting fish that were killed by a sudden drop in water temperatures at the weekend. The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources said more than 750 tonnes of fish had died since Friday in Taal Lake, hitting several towns who heavily rely on the fishing industry.


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