Piñol pushing for release of 99 Filipino fishermen detained in Indonesia

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 9 Sep) – Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol is pushing for the release of at 99 fishermen from this city and other parts of Mindanao who are currently detained in Indonesia due to illegal fishing.

In a statement, Piñol said he has referred the case of the detained fishermen to President Rodrigo R. Duterte for possible inclusion in his discussion with Indonesian President Joko Widodo during their scheduled bilateral talks on Friday.

President Duterte arrived in Jakarta Thursday night for a state visit after attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit in Vientianne, Laos.

Piñol, who is also in Jakarta for the President’s visit, said he submitted a memorandum to President Duterte through Special Executive Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence Go to look into the fate of the 99 fishermen.

He said it includes a briefer on the plight of the fishermen prepared by the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).

Piñol said the fishermen had been charged with illegal fishing and are currently detained in separate jails in Bitung and Manado in North Sulawesi, Indonesia.

“Given the fact that charges have been filed against the 99, it was suggested that the Philippine government would only ask for the expeditious resolution of the cases,” he said.

Piñol said the detained fishermen include crew members of two support vessels that were stopped by Indonesian naval authorities despite proper coordination made by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Danilo Medina, captain of F/B Trinity, and Rene Perez, captain of L/B EBS 04, and their crew members Dionesia Paglinawan, Elito Libay, Danilo Empleo and Gregorio Seroyla were intercepted by the Indonesian Navy while their vessels were passing through Indonesian waters en route to the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, he said.

F/B Trinity is owned by the Trinity Home Industrial Development Corporation based in Spring Valley compound in Barangay Tambler here.

Piñol said the fishermen were detained in Indonesia since Nov. 8, 2015 “even when their travel through the Indonesian waters was made with proper coordination and in spite of the fact that their boats were merely supply boats and did not carry fishing gears.”

He said a total of 279 fishermen had been arrested and detained in Indonesia on charges of illegal fishing but 174 of them were released last week.

“(The release was) apparently as a reciprocal gesture to the release of 172 Mecca-bound Indonesians who were arrested in the Philippines for carrying Filipino passports,” he said.

Piñol said he met with Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. Thursday night and brought up the “issue of the Filipino Consular Officers’ inability to visit the detained Filipino fishermen despite the 2014 Agreement on Consular Affairs.”

The Agriculture Secretary is accompanied by five other DA officials – Undersecretary for Fisheries and BFAR national director Eduardo Gongona, BFAR assistant director Drusila Esther Bayate, BFAR fisheries regulatory and quarantine division chief lawyer Annaliza Vitug, and Agriculture Attaché Anna Abejuela. (MindaNews)