Indonesia repatriates 42 more fishers

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/26 Sept) – Forty-two more fishermen from this city and several other areas in Mindanao were repatriated by the Indonesian government after getting reprieve from prison due to illegal fishing and immigration violations.

City Councilor Ronnel Rivera said the repatriates arrived here on Tuesday morning from Manado in Indonesia’s North Sulawesi province aboard a fishing vessel owned by his family’s fishing company, RD Fishing Industries Inc. (RDFI).

He said the repatriation was facilitated by the Philippine Consulate in Manado in close coordination with staff members of the Ronnel C. Rivera Foundation Inc. and RDFI.

“Most these fishermen already served jail times ranging from five months to two years before they were given pardon and subjected to repatriation,” Rivera said.

After arriving at the RDFI wharf here, he said the fishermen were immediately turned over to the Philippine Coast Guard to undergo documentation and to City Social Welfare and Development Office personnel.

Of the 42 repatriates, Rivera said 20 were from this city, eight from Sarangani province and seven from Davao del Sur. The other fishermen were residents of Bukidnon and Pagadian City in Zamboanga 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 naval personnel after encroaching Indonesia’s fishing grounds.

Rivera, who is vice president of the RD Group of Companies, said his foundation offered additional assistance to the repatriates in the form of training scholarships and livelihood opportunities.

He said they specifically encouraged the fishermen to take part in their skills training program, which is being implemented through its partnership with the Technical Education Skills and Development Authority.

Rivera said his office is continually coordinating with officials of the Philippine Consulate in Manado for the release and repatriation of more Filipino fishermen from Indonesia.

Since last year, the city councilor’s foundation already facilitated the return of around 200 fishermen who were imprisoned in various jails in North Sulawesi province in Indonesia.

Rivera earlier estimated that around 5,000 fishermen from the city and the neighboring areas were still languishing in Indonesian jails due to illegal fishing and entry violations. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)