Sual, Pangasinan — President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Wednesday, November 29, assured during the ceremonial send-off here for Vietnamese fishermen that the relationship between Viet Nam and Philippines remains “very strong.”
“I’d like to address our Vietnamese friends that we are one, we are Asians. I’m sorry for the incident. I hope it would never happen again,” the President said in his speech at the Sual Wharf and Causeway Area.
“But these incidents will not destroy our bond of relationship. It’s very strong,” he added.
The President led the send-off for five Vietnamese fishermen who were involved in a poaching incident in September. He also handed tokens to the fishermen.
President Duterte gave his commitment to the Viet Nam Ambassador to the Philippines that he could call him in case the incident happens again.
“And we commit to the Ambassador that the next time, kindly give me a call personally and I will do the same to your President,” he said.
The Chief Executive acknowledged that these incidents could not be avoided but noted that there is a way for the fishermen not to stay too long in the country.
“And maybe, we cannot avoid altogether these incidents. They will happen and happen again. But let us, I said, shorten the period. They were being out of their country for so long,” he said.
For his part, Viet Nam Ambassador to the Philippines Ly Quoc Tuan expressed gratitude for the act of goodwill by President Duterte and the Philippine government.
He said the send-off is a vivid representation of the friendship between Viet Nam and the Philippines, adding that the order to release the fishermen would surely bring happiness to their families.
Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) national director Eduardo Gongona said the fishermen prayed leniency from the Philippine government as they had no means of paying the fine imposed.
Gongona said the fine was not imposed in view of humanitarian considerations, owing to the indigence of the fishermen. ### (PND)