Indonesia sends home 50 fishermen from Mindanao

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/14 December) – Indonesia has repatriated 50 more fishermen from this city and the neighboring provinces of Sarangani and Davao del Sur who were earlier jailed for fishing illegally in its territorial waters.

City Councilor Ronnel Rivera said Wednesday the repatriates arrived here Tuesday morning aboard a vessel commissioned by his family’s fishing company RD Fishing Industries Inc. from Manado in Indonesia.

He said the repatriation was arranged by staff members based in Manado of his own foundation, the Ronnel C. Rivera (RCR) Foundation Inc. (RDFI), and officials of the Philippine Consulate in Manado.

After arriving at the RDFI wharf here, the fishermen were immediately subjected to proper documentation by Philippine Coast Guard and City Social Welfare and Development Office personnel.

“These fishermen were allowed to return home by Indonesia after serving their jail terms for illegal entry and fishing violations,” Rivera said.

Majority of the 50 repatriates were residents of this city while a number of them were from Sarangani Province and Balut Island in Davao del Sur, he said.

The official said most of them were crew members and officers of fishing boats owned by various tuna fishing companies based in this city that were apprehended by Indonesian Navy personnel for encroaching on Indonesia’s fishing grounds.

He said some of the fishermen had served jail terms of more than two years while others completed lighter sentences of four months to one year.

Rivera, who is vice president of the RD Group of Companies, said his foundation will initially provide financial and livelihood assistance to the repatriated fishermen as well as possible job placements in his family’s fishing company.

Aside from the 50 fishermen, Rivera said his staff members in Manado were also working for the repatriation of 15 more fishermen from the area.

“I was informed by the consulate that 15 more fishermen are now ready for repatriation. So I immediately instructed my staff to make the necessary arrangements so these fishermen can come home before the end of the month,” he said.

Since last year, Rivera’s foundation has already facilitated the return of around 200 fishermen who were imprisoned in various jails in North Sulawesi province in Indonesia due to illegal fishing and entry violations.

To date, Rivera estimated that around 5,000 fishermen from the city and the neighboring areas were still languishing in Indonesian jails.

“We’re currently working double time to facilitate the immediate repatriation of these fishermen. Right now we’re targeting to bring home some of them every two to three months,” he said. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)