GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/01 August)—Nearly a hundred Filipinos jailed in Indonesia for illegal tuna fishing arrived at the Makar Wharf on Sunday night, a top official of the Department of Foreign Affairs said on Monday.
“They were imprisoned in Indonesia for an average period of four to six months before being released after the negotiating efforts of our consulate in Manado,” said Jovencio Agus, DFA regional consular officer here.
He told MindaNews that many of the repatriates came from this port city and neighboring areas, and were captured in the high seas by Indonesian naval authorities and charged with illegal fishing.
The 92 deportees arrived 9 p.m. Sunday at the Makar Wharf on board Indonesian vessel KM Tunas Jaya chartered by the Philippine government, Agus said.
“Most of the welcoming families cried in joy upon seeing again their loved ones who were unnecessarily separated from them for quite some time,” he narrated.
Agus said that most of the jailed fishermen are sole family breadwinners, adding their long separation from their families caused economic and psychological miseries.
Officials from the Philippine Coast Guard, Bureau of Quarantine, Bureau of Immigration and the Department of Social Welfare and Development also received the repatriates for proper assistance.
Noel Servigon, DFA consul general in Manado, said in a communication marked “very urgent” that the repatriates left Bitung City, Indonesia on Saturday.
The arrest of Filipino fishermen in tuna expeditions by Indonesian naval authorities has long been happening apparently due to unclear maritime boundary delineation.
Agus urged the Philippine government to formulate doable solutions to solve, if not mitigate the problem, noting that government is spending substantial amount of money to repatriate these jailed fishermen.
He also called on the boat owners or fishing companies to assist the fishermen in trouble in Indonesia for illegal fishing.
Agus claimed that once the fishermen are captured in Indonesia, “their GenSan-based boat owners or companies just simply abandon them.”
But Councilor Ronel Rivera, whose family owns RD Corp. that is into fishing as one of its core businesses, has taken exception to such claim.
Rivera said earlier their company was coordinating with the consular office in Manado and with the local DSWD to assist in the repatriation of Filipino fishermen jailed in Indonesia.
Agus said there are Indonesians living in this city for a long time, and who can speak the local dialect fluently, who are also engaged in the illegal fishing expeditions in the high seas.
He added they are closely coordinating with the Manado consular office to ensure that only Filipino fishermen will be repatriated. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)